Bronzeville's Nat King Cole mural, seen here in an undated photo, is in need of a makeover. A Go Fund Me campaign has been launched to help. Credit: Chris Devins

GRAND BOULEVARD — A beloved Bronzeville mural honoring a musical icon has been fully restored.

Artist Chris Devins completed work on the Nat King Cole mural this month after successfully raising $2,000 from a GoFundMe campaign for the project. Ald. Pat Dowell’s (3rd) office also made a “substantial” contribution, Devins said.

The large mural — which recreates a black-and-white photo of the singer taken in June 1947 at a New York City club — has graced the wall of the T.K. Lawless Building on 43rd Street and King Drive since 2014. Over time, the installation began to show signs of wear and tear, with several cracks forming.

With the money raised, Devins was able to make the repairs and finish the project on schedule, he said.

The mural is part of the Bronzeville Legends Initiative, a campaign launched by the artist nine years ago to create identity, sustainability and mobility through public art. The installation is one of five throughout the community that celebrates Bronzeville notables, including the Gwendolyn Brooks mural at 3957 S. King Drive and the Lorraine Hansberry mural at 51st Street and Calumet Avenue.

The Nat King Cole mural is one of five throughout Bronzeville honoring local icons as part of the Bronzeville Legends Initiative, including this Lorraine Hansberry mural on 51st Street ad Calumet Ave. Credit: Provided.

The Bronzeville Legends initiative complements the push to transform the community into a major cultural destination, from the Bronzeville Trail to the passage of the Bronzeville National Heritage Area Act in December.

Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Cole’s family moved to Bronzeville when he was 4 in 1919. He launched his professional career shortly after attending Phillips Academy. The pianist was the first Black superstar to host his own television show, his work breaking barriers across the globe. At the height of his career, Cole died from lung cancer in 1965.

Devins, who serves on the Bronzeville Trail Task Force, said he chose that particular picture of Cole because it felt “more intimate” than the staged publicity photos taken throughout his career.

With African Americans being some of the largest contributors to American culture, it was important to Devins, an urban planner, to create art that spoke to their work, he said. This way, when people visit communities like Bronzeville, they see more than just the blight or poverty, Devins said.

Help Block Club Get
500 More Subscribers!

Subscribe to Block Club now and you’ll get a free 16-by-20-inch Chicago neighborhood print of your choice, helping us reach our goal of getting 500 more subscribers before 2024. Click here to subscribe or click here to gift a subscription.

Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: Twitter @thewayoftheid