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Art Tue Sep 03 2013

Positive Babel Mural Celebrates Old Irving Park, a City Melting Pot

Chicago is known as a city of neighborhoods, separated by ethnicities. Old Irving Park on Chicago's northwest side contradicts that description with residents from 70 countries. The community's new mural--Positive Babel: The World Lives, Works and Plays in Old Irving--was created to communicate that message.

tony-sparrow-mural-positive-babel-grid1.jpg

Positive Babel mural, acrylic and spray paint on mason wall. Photos courtesy of Tony Sparrow.

The new work, created by lead artist Tony Sparrow and a team of eight other artists, was just completed in the viaduct under the Union Pacific/Metra tracks at Irving Park Road and Keeler Avenue. It will be dedicated at 11am Saturday with a program featuring representatives of the Old Irving Park Association, artists and public officials. (See Saturday Slowdown for more information.) Marlena Ascher, president of OIPA, will emcee the event.

Old Irving Park is a one-square mile neighborhood bounded by Addison and Montrose on the south and north and Pulaski and Cicero on the east and west. The neighborhood has many underpasses created by two Metra train lines, the CTA Blue Line and the Kennedy Expressway. All have heavy pedestrian and car traffic every day. The community organization has been "turning those eyesores into assets since 2003," according to Anna Sobor, incoming president of OIPA. The Positive Babel murals are the 10th and 11th.

The neighborhood association called for submissions to create the mural and Sparrow's was selected. He and artists Jerry Rogowski and Franziska Neugebauer did most of the painting over a two-week period. The total space painted, including support pillars, is 720 feet long by 18 feet high.

The new mural is a "skyline scene that integrates important buildings from many countries--countries that represent the ethnic origins of our community," Ascher said. Sparrow defines the mural's title as putting a positive spin on the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. "Through art, we speak the same language," he says. "The neighborhood's unique residential architecture and varied population inspired me to present a concept featuring architectural landmarks from throughout the world on a field of blue matching the city flag of Chicago." Landmarks pictured range from the Sydney Opera House and the Taj Mahal to the Eiffel Tower and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

The mural is painted with exterior house paint with no protective coating. "It's easier to do cleanup if the surface is paint," Sparrow says. So far they have had few problems with graffiti tags on neighborhood murals. Materials and paint for the mural were funded by OIPA. Firefighters from Firehouse 69 blast-cleaned the walls and pillars of the viaduct to provide a proper surface for paint. All work was done by volunteers.

To view the murals on foot, take the CTA Blue Line to the Irving Park/Pulaski stop or Metra/Union Pacific to the Irving Park stop. If you drive, park on Avondale Avenue, just north of Irving Park and east of the Positive Babel mural.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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