After living in various places around the world, including North America, South America and Europe, Troy McMillan decided she wanted to return to her roots and move back to Chicago.
When she visited Edgewater, she knew she finally found the place she wanted to live. Standing at the intersection of Broadway Street and Granville Avenue, she said she noticed vibrancy and diversity, not only among the people, but the architecture, the landscape and the storefronts. It has now been 20 years, and she hasn’t left.
“Edgewater was the only neighborhood diverse enough for me,” McMillan said.
To show her appreciation for the neighborhood’s diversity — what drew McMillan to Edgewater in the first place — she said she decided to have her photograph taken to be featured in a mural of Edgewater residents for Rich Alapeck’s “We All Live Here” project.
The “We All Live Here” Project was founded by Alapeck, a Chicago resident, to bring community members together through art. Alapeck said he wants the Edgewater mural to represent the diversity of the Edgewater neighborhood.
“What makes us different makes us better,” Alapeck said. “What makes us weird makes us wonderful.”
The “We All Live Here” project uses different art forms including street art, murals and children’s artwork paired with the phrase “We All Live Here,” to spread a message of inclusivity and positivity.
The Edgewater mural is one of many extensions of the “We All Live Here” project. Since its start in 2015, the project has been represented in murals around Chicago including one at the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue and an elementary school in the Near North Side neighborhood. Generally, these projects are colorful representations of the project’s phrase “We All Live Here,” according to Alapeck.
The Edgewater mural will show colored photos of the residents with the phrase “We All Live Here” across the residents’ faces, Alapeck said. It will be located on the wall of Moody’s Pub, which faces north and will be completed later this year.
Alapeck has hosted two photoshoots for Edgewater residents — one at Moody’s Pub in December (5910 N. Broadway St) and another at Broadway Armory Park earlier this month (5917 N. Broadway St.) — in which locals could get their photos taken for the mural. Alapeck’s friend Ben Spaley photographed the residents at both locations.
Alapeck estimated around 450 residents have had their photo taken so far. According to Katrina Balog, the executive director from the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, there will be another photoshoot for the mural on March 8 at The Edge Theatre (5451 N. Broadway St.)
When Alapeck began working with Harry Osterman, the Alderman of the 48th Ward — which covers Edgewater — to bring the “We All Live Here” project to the ward’s schools, Alapeck suggested creating a mural somewhere in the neighborhood. He said Osterman fully supported it, as Osterman’s assistant Jerry Goodman said the alderman does with most public art projects.
“We’re all excited about seeing the finished product,” Goodman said. “One more 48th Ward public art installation to celebrate.”
Alapeck also worked with the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce to fund the mural. When they received a grant, Alapeck got to work.
“I think the message of the project will really resonate with residents,” Balog said. “We hear from residents that people come to the neighborhood for the diversity.”
Robert Remer has been heavily involved with the Edgewater community since moving to the neighborhood in 1976. He’s currently the Edgewater Historical Society president, which he said inspired him to get photographed for the mural.
“Not only is Edgewater diverse, but no one is an ‘other,’” Remer said. “Everyone is someone.”
Kitty Slattery, a 77-year-old woman who’s been living in Edgewater for 35 years, decided to be photographed for the mural so it would show diverse age groups.
“I was so excited to see so many different people from my community getting their photos taken,” Slattery said. “It made me proud to live in such a diverse neighborhood.”
McMillan’s grandson Ethan will also be featured in the mural. She said she wanted to show the diversity not only within the neighborhood but also within her own family by getting her multiethnic grandson photographed for the mural.
“We all live here and we should remember that,” McMillan said. “We want to make this place better for my grandson, your niece, your son, the future generation.”
Alapeck said he’s especially excited about the Edgewater mural because it’s the first mural which includes actual photos of the residents. With past murals, community members have contributed to the artwork, but their faces haven’t been included.
Though the Edgewater project will look different than Alapeck’s other “We All Live Here” murals, he said all the art for the project is intended to spread the same message of inclusivity, positivity and the importance of getting along with each other. Alapeck said murals can be a reminder to the community of these values.
“Maybe something hits us because we pass it on the way to work,” Alapeck said. “It’s important to have some vocabulary for when we hear something hateful. Let the art do the talking.”