Sharon Dowell, a public artist from North Carolina, said her mural represents a girl blossoming from a dark period in her life. Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

LAKEVIEW — Two new murals that celebrate diversity and triumph over adversity were unveiled at the Lakeview Low-Line.

They’re the first of four murals aimed at attracting more people to the half-mile stretch beneath the CTA Brown Line tracks between Southport and Lincoln avenues commonly referred to as the Low-Line. 

Mauricio Ramirez, a visual artist from west suburban Berwyn, painted the first mural late July in the Low-Line plaza just east of Ashland Avenue. Titled “Year Round,” it features an African American woman overlooking a backdrop of red, green and blue shades that intertwine in a flowing pattern.

Ramirez said it tells the story of how Chicago experiences all four seasons while raising awareness for climate change and racial equality.

“Year Round” by Mauricio Ramirez pays tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement while raising awareness for climate change in Chicago. Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

“It was important to pay tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement and put it at the forefront of art and the public sector,” Ramirez said. “And the backdrop flows like the wind to represent how we go through the seasons.”

Ramirez said the backdrop, which juxtaposes earthy greens and blues against a fiery red, is also meant to raise awareness for climate change.

“Climate change is a huge issue, and I think the pandemic gave us the break we needed to realize our environmental footprint of living on this Earth,” Ramirez said. “The mural is a reminder to hold onto that awareness.” 

The second mural, located across Ashland to the west, features a woman painted with shades of red who is emerging from a blue-tinted foreground. It was painted this week by North Carolina public artist Sharon Dowell.

“It’s a portrait of a girl who had been through a blue or dark period of her life, but she’s coming out of it and blossoming with all the bright jungle colors,” Dowell said. 

Public artist Sharon Dowell Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

Dowell said she drew the concept in early 2019 when she was first commissioned for the mural, but the project got pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s nice because I think the message is especially true right now,” Dowell said. “We are going through a lot, but this mural can help people feel connected and inspired to get through this.” 

The remaining two murals will be finished by the end of September. They will be painted by Antonio Beniquez, a Lake View High School graduate and mentor for the Wood Family Foundation, and Felix Maldonado, Jr., an East Chicago, Indiana, native and alum from Chicago’s American Academy of Fine Arts.

The murals were commissioned by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, along with its nonprofit fundraising arm Friends of Lakeview and Special Service Area 27.

“The murals serve to reflect the spirit of Lakeview, beautify the neighborhood and bring people together, said Nicole McLellan, community development manager for the Lakeview Chamber. “This art serves as an attraction for — and reflection of — our vibrant community.”

AARP Chicago, a sponsor of the Low-Line’s art projects, also supported the murals.

“Now more than ever, public art provides us with vibrant outdoor spaces and a sense of community identity that truly can enhance the quality of life for people of all ages,” said Terri Worman, associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Illinois.

The murals are the latest of several artworks aimed at livening the Low-Line thoroughfare to encourage foot traffic along the neighborhood’s commercial corridors. The Lakeview Chamber also recently installed artistic light boxes to brighten the area so it’s more welcoming to visitors.

It’s part of the chamber’s broader Lakeview Low-Line project to transform the space into a public destination with outdoor seating, events and rotating exhibits.

The thoroughfare is also home to the neighborhood’s Low-Line Market, which returned this summer with an “in-and-out” style for shoppers to buy locally grown produce, flowers and artisanal goods while following social-distancing rules.

The market is open every Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 7?30 p.m. through Oct. 15 at the Southport Brown Line Station, 3410 N. Lincoln Ave.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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