‘Birds of Concern’ mural offers connection between art and habitat preservation


Image courtesy of Elli Proctor

A new mural, titled “Birds of Concern,” located on Central Street and Green Bay Road was recently completed. 

On Oct. 23, Mayor Daniel Biss hosted a commemorative ribbon cutting of the mural, which was spearheaded by Evanston art-based non-profit, Art Encounter. The organization worked with artist Tyrue “Slang” Jones and the Evanston Northshore Bird Club to create this piece of art in honor of three species of birds that are threatened by climate change and loss of habitat. The three birds chosen by Slang and the Bird Club were the Red-Headed Woodpecker, American Kestrel and the Blackburnian Warbler. 

The mural pictures the three birds standing side by side on a branch depicted inside a circle of twirling branches, creating a swirling nest effect. 

“The Evanston NorthShore Bird Club is an environmental group,” Art Encounter Executive Director Lea Pinsky says. “There’s a big issue right now that birds are being threatened by climate change. So, we got a call from this woman who works there. [She said,] ‘I’m very interested in working with you; we’d love to do a mural that gives some attention to these endangered birds.’ And we said, ‘Great, let’s do it! We’d love to help you with that project.’”

“Our mural follows a tradition that began in New York City in 2014 and came to Chicago in 2016, called the Audubon Mural Project,” says the Northshore Bird Club on their website. 

The Audubon Mural Project brings together science and art to celebrate and draw attention to the beautiful, endangered birds of the country and the world. There are 131 species honored in 93 murals, created by countless different artists so far, with more to come. 

Slang, the artist of “Birds of Concern,” has already participated in the Chicago branch of the Audubon Mural Project back in 2016. He also worked with Art Encounter’s Lea Pinsky and her husband Dustin Harris in Rogers Park’s Mile of Murals

Slang is a self-taught artist who uses various styles of painting ranging all the way from graffiti to fine art. In this project, he uses a technique he calls “Figurative Graffiti,” which combines flowing abstract shapes to create recognizable figures. Slang’s remarkable and original art has been recognized around the world for the past 25 to 30 years.

Roger Gastman, author of “The History Of American Graffiti” says in his book that, “Slang single-handedly defines the Chicago graffiti movement. For 30 years, he has been a nonstop force pushing the limits of his art and teaching the history of the culture that he helped to create.”

“[This project’s goal is] to highlight the beauty of birds that people in the ENSBC [Evanston North Shore Bird Club] area are likely to see, particularly during spring and fall migration,” says the Bird Club on their website. “Ecology and ornithology merge with art. We hope to use the mural as a tangible display of the importance of birds.”