Visually it has been a very exciting year for the residents of University Station, University Commons, University Lofts and University Village.
Last June, the University Station Condo Association funded a new mural at 1550 S. Blue Island as part of Alderman Danny Solis’s Art in Public Places Initiative. The bald eagle mural – symbolizing immigration – sits across the street from the condos that have been in the neighborhood since 2006 and are on the US National Register of Historic Places. The building was formerly The Produce Terminal Cold Storage Company and serviced the nearby South Water Market staring in the mid-1920’s.
The mural is by Argentinean artist Nicolas Romero – also known as EVER – who created the mural as a commentary on gentrification.
Two large hands flank the mural and push into a medley of colored shapes and disembodied heads with a large bald eagle at the center. In banners wrapped around the eagle are the words, “Techo, Terra, Trabajo” – Spanish for “housing, land, work.”
Although the association did not have any input on the mural they are getting ready to discuss future plans to put up six more murals around University Station in 2014.
Just last Sunday the Mural on Morgan, also part of the Art in Public Places Initiative by Alderman Solis, had its dedication at Morgan just south of 15th Street in the University Village area. The mural’s creation was a community undertaking bringing people together who have common interests. A committee of 8 was formed from University Commons, University Lofts and University Village. The committee worked together for over one year to raise private donations totaling $12,050, then decided what the concept on the wall would be and found an artist to bring it to life.
Artist Nick Goettling did an incredible layered mural highlighting 4 key meaningful themes of the area: railroads, the South Water Market, Maxwell Street and UIC. The mural takes on a magic of its own as you discover many interesting items painted within one another. Highlights include the terracotta facade of the South Water Market, now the home to University Commons, which is also on the US National Register of Historic Places; and Ben Lyons and Nate Duncan, the great duo of Lyon’s Delicatessen followed by Nate’s Delicatessen on Maxwell Street whose facade was part of the Blues Brothers movie. When Ben retired and sold the deli to his long time employee, Nate Duncan, an African American gentleman, Nate never changed the menu. It was always a kosher restaurant and continued to do a brisk business. Patrons would come from out-of-state to get some of Nate’s pickled herring, which he learned to make from Ben Lyons’ mother. The building was bought by UIC in the early 1990’s and demolished. One of the best known street entertainers on Maxwell Street for years, and now up on the mural, was “Chicken Man.” Born in 1870, his name was Casey Jones, and he trained and performed with 218 chickens in Chicago. The railroads brought the “immigrant trains” from New York to Chicago filled with excitement about the prosperity that Chicago had to offer in the stockyards, lumber mills, home building and steel mills. Check out the hand holding the train tickets and the one with the luggage. The images of UIC brings another whole educational and redevelopment aspect to the mural.
The mural is a delight to the eye and a wonderful homage to the area that once was and what it has become. A huge documentation of the mural’s progress along with pictures of what the neighborhood was like in the 1940’s/50’s can be seen on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MuralOnMorgan
We applaud what everyone has done to make these communities even better places to live!
Visual art is very exciting and adds to the ambiance of living in the city. Please make the time to visit and view these wonderful works of art.