Many blank Evanston street walls have been transformed as the Evanston Murals Arts Program (EMAP) unites the community through public art.
“I believe that art has the capacity to inspire and transform, to change the way we think, feel and connect people in a unique way,” Church and Maple muralist Anthony Lewellen says.
EMAP’s second year has allowed them the opportunity to start working on five new murals for the city under Art Encounter, a nonprofit organization that connects a diverse range of individuals through interactive experiences with art.
This program is in communications with seven community groups and business districts around Evanston. They also work alongside the children of Evanston and Skokie through the Y.O.U. program by offering many different creative projects and activities.
This year’s artists are Dalek, Cheri Chart on, Anthony Lewellen, James Marshall and Jeff Zimmerman. These artists were invited onto the team based on their previous works. They have been working on murals which honor the Girl Scout’s 100th year in Evanston and portraits of locals.
Lewellen is among the five artists chosen to create the new murals. This is his first time working in Evanston, but he has a number of public and private works in Chicago. He has been painting murals on Church Street and Maple Avenue. His work is broken up into four parts which differ but stick to the theme “fitness and food”. The themes are decided on with input from local businesses and the local chamber of commerce.
“I stuck very literally to the theme but developed a concept based on my own ideas, aesthetics and approach, essentially interpreting the idea in my own style,” Lewellen says.
Lewellen compares working in public spaces to camping, because the projects require a lot of previous planning to ensure that all the materials necessary are accounted for and in attendance. Lewellen has been working with spray paint.
Working in public also entails getting positive feedback from the people the art effects in real time. Lewellen describes the challenging part of talking with citizens while working is learning to balance interactions with people with actually getting the work done.
“Every project is different and there is always something you don’t expect,” Lewellen says. “Most of the time it has to do with how you are going to make something work with the unique challenges of the wall. It’s a lot of thinking on your feet and step by step problem solving.”
Along with bringing color to the community, studies show that public art improves property values and can draw people to new places, according to Lewellen.
“I think it would be really interesting to see the creativity of Evanston through the art itself as well as through its placement,” freshman Sabrina Barns says.
These murals can be found at the Church Street Metra underpass, the Green Bay-Ridge-Emerson Metra underpass, the Lake Street Metra underpass and Soapies building on Chicago Avenue. More information about how to get involved in public art in Evanston can be found at http://www.artencounter.org/evanston-mural-arts-program/ or on Instagram @evanstonmuralartsprogram.