Photo Briefs

Wicker Park Mural Reflects Artist’s View of Political Climate

The Violet Hour, a cocktail bar in Wicker Park, lends its front exterior wall to the creative licenses of artists from near and far. This month, two Chicago artists have transformed the wall — into a wall.

The mural is a collaboration with filmmaker and painter Elijah Alvarado and street artist Colin Grimm, who goes by the name ProbCause. The piece is a response to the announcement earlier this month that President Donald J. Trump plans to award contracts for the building of a wall on the border of Mexico and the United States.

“I’m not a supporter of the idea of building a border wall, so I figured it would be a great time to make a statement about that,” Alvarado said. “But I think the whole idea behind this piece is not to create something … where somebody in the middle that maybe didn’t make up their mind would be turned off to. I just wanted to create a beautiful image that hopefully would inform an opinion.”

At the beginning of the month, the wall was only painted as gray bricks and barbed wire. But now, more than halfway through April, it’s being opened up and taken over by colorful leaves, vines and flowers to symbolize peace.

The artists return to the mural every Wednesday and Saturday to add greenery and erase a few bricks at a time. Its final day of painting is April 26 and the mural will be replaced after April 29 by the next artist’s piece of work.

Each mural is on display for only one month, but the planning that’s gone into the wall has been extensive. Along with an idea for the mural, artists are asked to submit an artist statement explaining their inspiration for the mural. The Violet Hour’s business partners meet to vote on projects and schedule the ones that pass.

The political mural is not the first of its kind. In October of last year, an alphabet with the letters T, R, U, M and P missing occupied the exterior wall space. That piece and the current mural have received some negative comments, but feedback has been mostly positive, according to The Violet Hour’s managing partner Eden Laurin.

Laurin said they try to separate the bar from the wall, so while at times political murals have confused customers, it hasn’t had a significant effect on business. Alvarado said they’ve received positive comments from passersby while working on the piece, but have had a few negative responses online.

“The internet is full of arguing people and they had some arguments, but that’s good, too, because it’s creating a discussion and creating an exchange of ideas and I think that’s ultimately what we wanted to do,” Alvarado said.

Laurin said the artists and the works they produce come from a place of diversity. Art students, international artists and local artists who specialize in Wicker Park street art have painted the wall. People have even come out of retirement to paint at The Violet Hour.

Alvarado said the one thing he wants people to remember is that art is a powerful thing that can build a middle ground between two opposing viewpoints.

“This is a positive act that we’re out here doing. We’re out here actively painting this wall trying to create a good, positive vibe in this neighborhood,” Alvarado said. “Painting and creating art will always be a positive way to impact anyone, no matter what the idea is.”

The Violet Hour is located at 1520 N. Damen Ave. All are encouraged to submit artworks for consideration.

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