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Beautifying Chicago: Edgewater's "Living 2007"

By Peter Mavrik in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 8, 2007 10:00PM

2007_08_edgemural1.jpgWhen we were kids, we used to visit many of the neighborhoods around Chicago as part of our parents endless quest to eat food from as many cultures as possible. Pierogi in Avondale, tortas in Pilsen, souvlaki on Halsted, dhal on Devon, and the biggest polish-with-kraut you ever saw on Maxwell are just a taste of what we've had the good fortune to eat over time.

It isn't the food that sticks in our minds all these years (although writing the above paragraph just made us hungry). It's the look of the neighborhoods. The smell of them. The amount of blackened gum on their sidewalks. And the beautiful murals that adorn so many of the walls around town.

Pilsen is drenched in outdoor murals, rich with colorful paintings that have brought otherwise boring walls to life. Rogers Park has the famous Loyola Park beach mural, and they're working on their Mile of Murals project even now. And elsewhere around town there are murals a-plenty, on the sides of buildings, each a testament to the culture of the area or the flavor of the building. There are so many that author Mary Lackritz Gray has penned a guide book called A Guide to Chicago's Murals that describes the the nearly two hundred around town.

But if you've exited Lake Shore at Bryn Mawr lately, you may have seen one of the Chicago's latest murals in progress...

2007_08_edgemural2.jpgWorking with neighborhood residents over the last year and a half, Chicago Public Art Group artists Tracy Van Duinen and Todd Osborne have helped weave the history of Edgewater and the Bryn Mawr Historic District together into a mosaic mural, composed of ceramic tiles, clay objects, mirrors, and painted panels.

"Living 2007" wasn't designed and executed by just two people. Or four. Or eight. Or even fifty. In all, nearly four-hundred people participated in the designing and planning of the stories the mural would tell, ranging from kite flying and bicycling on the beach to images of the long gone Edgewater Hotel. Many people also painted and sculpted pieces that would end up in the final work.

Under the guidance of Chicago Public Art Group artists, twenty-nine youth artists came together to get the work in shape. From smashing tiles and mirrors to create the mosaic shards, to placing and grouting the final pieces in place, they all worked together to bring the 185-foot long piece to life in the Bryn Mawr underpass along Lake Shore Drive.

2007_08_edgemural3.jpgThis Saturday, August 11th at 10:00 a.m., the work will be dedicated by 48th ward Alderman Mary Ann Smith along with all the artists, youth team members, and community partners that made the mural possible.

If you can't make the dedication, be sure to swing by on your bike, on foot, by bus (the #84) or if you're in your car, take a quick trip up the drive and exit at Bryn Mawr to catch a glimpse at one of the newest public works of art out there.

Images courtesy of Chicago Public Art Group