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Photos: Stunning Illuminated Mural Debuts On The Wabash Arts Corridor

By Carrie McGath in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 29, 2016 3:45PM

Darryll Schiff, Descending to Heaven, 2016, 24 x 56 foot, photo by Carrie McGath

The Wabash Arts Corridor (WAC) is a public art program where artists donate their time and work to further ripen the iconic Loop artery, Wabash Avenue. On Jan. 20, Chicago photographer, Darryll Schiff added to the burgeoning public art scene of the city with a large-scale, illuminated photographic mural titled, Descending to Heaven.

We spoke to Schiff about the project as well as a 30-day Kickstarter campaign he created to aid the project. He met his goal with pledges totaling over $20,000 with a week to spare, a testament to the community’s love of public art. The WAC is an ideal outdoor space for Chicagoans and its visitors to enjoy, so the democratic fundraising of the Kickstarter fit well into a work that muses on a moment in the city’s history.

Darryll Schiff, Descending to Heaven, 2016, 24 x 56 foot, photo by Carrie McGath

"I started on this project almost inadvertently. I was on my way to do more photography for another series and decided to walk through the Art Institute on the way, where I saw Jitish Kallat’s Public Notice 3," Schiff said. "The basis of his installation was a speech delivered by Swami Vivekananda over 100 years earlier in Chicago, on Sept. 11, 1893, on tolerance. Descending to Heaven is my reflection on the idealism of Vivekananda’s speech versus the reality of the world.”

Because he took inspiration from Kallat, an artist who creates public art internationally, the notion of "public" develops even more within Schiff's large installation. Schiff is usually a photographer who favors large photographs (with many of his prints coming in at 60 by 90 inches), but this project offered a different set of challenges and a process diverging from his usual one.

Assembling Descending to Heaven, photo by Carrie McGath

Descending to Heaven measures 24 by 55 feet and Schiff and his assistants had to recruit outside sources to build the piece, but they remained deeply involved in the process and the supervision of the work. Schiff said, “The final piece consists of three (or four) panels stitched together and then attached to the wall via "J" hooks, much like how billboards are done, but they are making the prints using a much finer resolution.”

“All of the artists have donated their work and also many hours of our time and I feel strongly that this is something I am happy to do and happy to give something back to my community. This will be the first time my work will be shown in this context,” Schiff said. “I love the idea of getting art out ‘onto the streets’, and joining these internationally known fellow artists, such as Hebru Brantley and Shepard Fairey.”

Schiff's final piece successfully and beautifully comments on the notion of the ideal versus the real while its illumination and sheer largess injects a whimsy to this significant cultural corridor.