Thursday, October 22, 2009

57th Drive Underpass Mini-Murals

posted by Elizabeth Fama

There are new mini-murals going up at the pedestrian underpass at 57th and Lake Shore Drive. On the day I took these photos (10/20/09), the tile-setter was beginning the process of grouting them, so these images depict the work ungrouted. (The grout the artist chose is a nice dark-gray.)

The artist is a Hyde Park resident, Mirtes Zwierzynski, working in collaboration with local schools. The project is funded by the Harper Court Arts Council and Chicago's non-profit After School Matters (an organization you may have heard of because of their Gallery37 summer program).

The theme of the mosaics is supposed to be Midwestern flora and fauna, but the kids seem to have interpreted the theme pretty liberally, which is fine with me given how cute this little guy is (above).

In general, they are sweet examples of what a collector might call "naive folk art," and they brighten and add interest to the space. I like the spare use of the mirrored tiles, which I think are somewhat overdone in the 47th Street underpass (although I know that's a matter of taste).

This underpass is better protected from the elements than any of the Metra viaducts that are currently getting mural makeovers by the Chicago Public Art Group. So, barring graffiti artists and taggers, they should have a long life with little maintenance.


Richard Gill said...

These may be easier to maintain, and more resistant to vandalism than murals. Let us hope.

Greg said...

Very cute. I like the one with the birds.

This does seem easier to maintain... or even to remove and replace it if is vandalized or becomes damaged. Much cheaper, too.

edj said...

It's too bad that people entering the neighborhood won't be able to see them as there is still the "DO NOT ENTER" sign at the entrance to the neighborhood.

I like the movement toward tile for the public art. It seems cheerier than the painted murals.

jimmyjack said...

Glad to see people are looking at the walls in Hyde Park and that you find the mosaics beautiful. They are quite amazing, especially when you realize they've been done by elementary and high school students. Believe me, few people are natural mosaicists. To do mosaics well it requires a skilled teacher. Mirtes is one of Chicago's best and most prolific mosaicists.

A couple details. While mosaics are easy to maintain, in fact the murals have been quite easy if you consider that the restoration on the south side of 55th just completed was of a mural that was never tagged in 37 years of being in the urban world. Other murals on 55th and 57th have been compromised when, after 25+ years of being untagged, they began to get tagged and then, sadly, the tags overpainted. But still 25+ years without tags is the equivalent of "not much maintenance".

The long delayed and tentatively named "Art Panels" on 53rd and 55th are hung up (yet) on a question of the contractor having to finish the metal installation correctly. No one can possibly match my desire to see these piece put up.

Finally, regarding cost. The per square foot price for a mosaic is significantly higher than a square foot of mural. Mosaics are much more labor intensive. It is interesting that the small mosaics, set into the panels under LSD at 57th hold their own visually on a much larger wall. Good design from CDOT at the very beginning. Good design by the mosaicist, Mirtes Zwierzynski. Jon Pounds

Michael said...

Much better than I would expect. But "barring grafitti" is like saying "barring breathing." It's going to happen, and soon.