A look into Evanston’s murals

Davis street metro station mural

Evanston has always had very interesting and meaningful public art. From the many galleries to the impressive array of beautiful public murals that are painted by local artists and members of our community, the Evanston art scene is only growing as time goes on. 

Just this summer, four new additions have been added to Evanston’s public art display. 

The City of Evanston believes that public art can connect people emotionally and socially to their neighborhoods and each other. 

“There’s opportunities for conversations between strangers looking at art together,” says Lea Pinsky, an artist who paints and organizes murals in Evanston with her husband Dustin Harris. 

Together, they’ve been painting murals around Chicago and Evanston since 2005. They started the Evanston mural arts program with Art Encounter in 2017. Art Encounter is a nonprofit that has been bringing art into people’s lives for almost 45 years. So far, they have added 24 pieces to the city’s public art landscape.

Creating a mural requires work even before it’s painted. An important step to creating a mural is finding an artist. This also may include choosing a community organization to partner with. For example, artist Sholo Beverly worked with students from Curt’s Cafe when making the new mural on Lincolnwood that includes many bright colors and organic shapes. Molly Z painted a large mural on Trulee with help from people at The Center for Independent Futures. 

Pinsky explains that “Sometimes there is an open call for artists, and other times there is a direct invitation.” 

Or, if they know they will want to work with kids, or another specific group of people, the folks leading the push to get the mural created will get recommendations that way. Finding an artist really depends on the type of mural, and the location.

The individual mural design and location are usually decided by the artist or the organization with which Art Encounter has partnered. For example, artist Max Sansing had originally planned to create a spray paint mural on a certain wall near the Davis CTA train station, but when Sansing saw the different options for walls in person, he said, “Oh, I want this wall,” referring to the wrap-around wall at the Custer Oasis, and that was the one he ended up painting.

“We don’t usually have a specific design in mind before hiring an artist for each mural, but we may have themes that we know we want to do,” explains Pinsky. 

Some groups may already have an idea for the design they want to create. This could be one that tells a story, one that represents the people and community of Evanston or even an abstract design that has a strong meaning.

The mural project not only brightens the walls of Evanston, the murals themselves can include deep themes and stories that resonate with many people in the community. They are an easy way to expose people to art. 

“It gets us to look up off of our phones,” Pinsky says, “and it brings art directly into people’s lives. In my opinion, that is just really enriching.”

Art Encounter plans to continue adding public art all around Evanston. There are still many vacant walls that have the potential to be brought to life through murals.

“I think that if we can continue to do as much great work as we’ve done,” Pinsky says. “Evanston could be a real destination for public art.”