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New Michelle Obama Mural In Chicago Aims To Capture Former First Lady’s ‘Warm’ Spirit

The mural features the South Side native wearing traditional Korean clothing. "We are so proud of this amazing human being, who happens to be a Chicagoan," the restaurant's owner said.

A new Michelle Obama mural features the first lady wearing traditional Korean clothing at Perilla, 401 W. Milwaukee Ave.
Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
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FULTON MARKET — A new mural featuring former first lady Michelle Obama wearing traditional Korean clothing near Fulton River Park aims to spread a message of unity.

Painted on a wall that faces an outdoor patio at Perilla, a Korean-American restaurant at 401 N. Milwaukee Ave., Obama is seen smiling while wearing a maroon-colored Hanbok, the traditional clothing worn by both women and men in Korea.

Perilla owners Andrew Lim and Tom Oh commissioned Korean artist Royyal Dog, whose real name is Chris Chanyang, to paint the mural. He finished it late last month.

Oh, who was raised in Chicago and whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Korea, said he was moved by Royyal Dog’s recent murals that inspire unity by “bridging two worlds and communities together.” 

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
A new Michelle Obama mural features the first lady wearing traditional Korean clothing at Perilla, 401 W. Milwaukee Ave.

“We saw [his] previous work and it connected so much with who we are and what we are doing here,” Oh said.

Oh and Lim opened their contemporary Korean-American restaurant last month — a project that aims to connect their Korean roots with their American upbringing.

Similarly, the mural aims to embody the diversity of what it means to be American, Lim said. 

“Being American is more than one identity,” Lim said. “America is a melting pot of so many different ethnicities, points of views, perspective and culture.”  

Oh and Lim convinced Royyal Dog to paint a mural on their wall after he unexpectedly dined at their restaurant last month.

In a span of a week, the artist painted the former first lady, a native South Sider and Whitney Young alum, in the Hanbok, building on his recent theme of painting African-American women wearing traditional Korean clothes in his artwork.

Lim and Oh said the mural isn’t meant to be political, but they hope it inspires a sense of pride for Chicagoans — and captures her “warm” spirit.

“There’s a warmth about Michelle that I think this world needs more of, with all the crazy stuff going on. We need more people that represent that,” Oh said.

Lim added: “We are so proud of this amazing human being, who happens to be a Chicagoan. We want to do her justice and let her know we are aware of this journey she’s been on.”

Royyal Dog wrote on Instagram that he hopes the painting “reminds people of hope.”

The artist could not immediately be reached Monday.

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