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Edgewater mural draws in variety of participants

Submitted on Tue, 07/24/2007 – 05:00.
Story by Dan Selecman
For the next month, residents of Chicago’s 48th Ward will be able to help complete a work of art that’s been more than a year in the making.

The underpass of Bryn Mawr Avenue at Lake Shore Drive in Edgewater is the site of a bricolage mural now under construction.

“A bricolage, simply put, is something made from disparate parts,” said Tracy Van Duinen, the lead artist for the project. In this project, the parts are pieces of tile and mirror, and the pieces are then attached to the wall of the underpass by a cement-like mixture.

The mural was commissioned by Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th) as part of an effort to beautify the North Side ward. Ernie Constantino, who serves on Smith’s staff, said the alderman contributed $15,000 to help pay for the project. The money came from the yearly allowance that each of the city’s 50 aldermen receive in equal shares from the city. In total, more than $50,000 has been raised for the project, said Constantino.

“This is the realization of over a year of working with the community,” he said.

For six months, workshops were in which community members helped sculpt and paint pieces of tile. In addition, many residents and local businesses donated pieces of tile and mirrors. During the workshops, Van Duinen collected drawings that were incorporated into the mural’s final design.

Jon Pounds, the executive director of Chicago Public Art Group, helped put together the project. His organization conducts about 25 to 30 art projects a year, and this mural is one of 11 currently being produced. The projects range from murals to sculptures and playgrounds.

Constanino and Pounds decided on the underpass at Bryn Mawr as the best spot for the bricolage for two reasons: First, the area has high levels of pedestrian traffic because it is a path to the beachfront, and second, the wall of the underpass was easily prepared for the artwork.

Pounds said they decided to do a bricolage because many people can work on the project at once with varying levels of skills, and they can all make an impact.

About 25 youths work on the wall during the week as part of a summer program. They are from Alternatives Inc., a youth development organization serving the city’s Northeast Side.

One of the walls of the group’s main offices served as a practice canvas for the Bryn Mawr project. The office is located in Uptown  just outside the 48th Ward, on Sheridan Road south of Lawrence Avenue.

“I hate to call it a ‘practice’ because it came out so well,” said Pounds. The Alternatives’ wall was done shortly after the Bryn Mawr project was conceived.

Kory Jackson, 18, said working on the murals as part of the Alternatives group has taught him the value of patience and hard work.

“You start with just the sketch on the wall, and little by little you make progress. Something like this can’t be done in day,” said Jackson.

He is now a supervisor after proving his work ethic to the lead artists on the Alternatives project. Jackson said that this mural is being constructed at an increasingly quick pace, and that people already are taking notice.

“Every time someone walks by, I watch them, and they can’t help but stop and look,” Jackson said.

The current project will be completed by Aug. 10, when the Alternatives-sponsored program comes to an end, said Van Duinen. Until Aug 7, residents can help any time between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Constantino said that a ceremony has been scheduled for Aug. 11 to celebrate the project’s completion.

Art & Entertainment City Life North Side Public
48th ward alderman mary ann smith alternatives inc. edgewater

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