WEST LOOP — Standing 40 feet tall and 40 feet wide, a new mural of Earth now overlooks Lake street between Peoria and Green streets in West Loop.
The message behind the yet-to-be-completed artwork comprised of 6,400 tiles is simple.
Rich Alapack, the artist behind the “Many Pieces, One Purpose” mural on the Lake Street wall, said he hopes the community project will serve as a physical reminder that good things can happen when we work together.
“Our society is too divided and I want to remind people to get along and help each other succeed,” Alapack said.
“Now, we have this huge physical reminder made by members of the community that shows what we can accomplish when we work together.”
The idea for a mural promoting unity was prompted after racist graffiti appeared along the Kennedy Expy. ramps in the West Loop last spring.
“KKK” was sprayed in black paint on three concrete barriers designed to protect pedestrians at the Kennedy’s Madison Street northbound exit near Whole Foods at 1 N. Halsted St. in Greektown.
Days later, the words “No N—–s” were sprayed along the sidewalk near the Monroe exit ramp from the Kennedy.
Alapack said he was approached by the West Loop Community Organization to “create something that reminded the community that that kind of messaging isn’t tolerated or allowed.”
After the neighborhood organization worked to secure one of the walls from Bridgford Foods for the tile-mosaic, Alapack, who is behind the “we all live here” series, designed a giant pixelated Earth comprised of thousands of tiles that would be applied with help from the neighborhood.
The mural is a true community effort, with lots of Chicago businesses pitching in to make it happen. Daltile provided the 6,400 tiles, Lyft donated the lifts, JC Licht and Emporium Arcade Bar donated paint and West Loop Community Organization and developer Shapack Partners promoted the project.
Community participants purchased tiles for $25, which included riding a lift to adhere the tile to the wall. People who helped with the mural will ultimately be placed on a donor plaque alongside the tile-mosaic and will receive photos of the mural they helped create.
All proceeds will benefit “we all live here” programs at Chicago schools and the West Loop Community Organization’s initiative to light up Lake Street with public art.
The first tiles were plastered on the wall during the West Loop Art Fair last fall. Since September, hundreds of community members, including students from Bennett Day School, have helped affix tiles as part of the project, the artist said.
The mural is expected to be completed this month.
Alapack said the mural will be completed as the booming West Loop undergoes major changes.
“There’s a lot of things happening in the West loop and this kind of gives everyone a chance to feel like they contributed to the reconstruction, that rebirth, that growth of the community,” Alapack said.
“Although it’s a small act to put one tile on a wall, I think it’s cool to be apart of something that is positive and inclusive,” he added.
“I’m hoping that people will see this, and they will look at this as an amazing thing people did together in the name of equality and tolerance.”