UPTOWN — For 25 years, a colorful mosaic installation has stood at the entrance to the Sunnyside Mall, welcoming people to the pedestrian space.
The public art piece, “From Many Paths We Come,” is meant to beautify the pedestrian mall and celebrate Uptown’s diversity. But the mosaic columns have deteriorated over the years, and the artist behind the installation is seeking the community’s help to restore it.
“It’s really doing quite well considering it’s 25 years old,” said artist Ginny Sykes, who lives in the Uptown neighborhood of Sheridan Park. “But it needs some work, and it’s more than I can handle.”
The mosaics were installed in 1996 and unveiled the following year on Sunnyside Mall, a pedestrian walkway south of Wilson Avenue created in 1975 as part of an urban renewal effort.
In its earlier days, the Sunnyside Mall was not welcoming and had issues of crime and disrepair, Sykes said. During conversations on how to improve the mall, Sykes suggested an art project that represented the neighborhood. Former Uptown Ald. Helen Shiller put Sykes in charge of the project, and she enlisted the help of fellow artists Mirtes Zwierzynski and Corinne Peterson.
The group settled on a mosaic installation that referenced Uptown’s diversity and status as a welcoming place for new residents.
Local teens helped create the colorful mosaic columns and designed tiles with a signature or character that described them. The artists also held community workshops at Truman College, where neighbors decorated individual tiles that run the length of the columns.
With gentrification accelerating in the 1990s, Sykes wanted the project to reflect the neighborhood as it existed then, she said.
“It’s a direct comment on our history, that Uptown has been a starting point for many groups,” she said.
The art, along with other improvements like flower planter boxes and benches, turned Sunnyside Mall into the public plaza and gathering space it was always envisioned as. The installation is showing its age, however.
Mosaic tiles are missing in some sections. Some of the concrete shows cracks and chipped paint. Sykes has done touch-up work to the project before, but this time the repairs require professional help.
She has enlisted Brian McGlade, a public art tile expert who has worked with Sykes on her projects, including at O’Hare’s Terminal 3. Refurbishing the mosaics likely will cost at least $3,000.
So far, neighbors have raised nearly $2,000 toward the goal. Any more raised beyond that will pay for any future fixes.
“It’s important that history stays a part of Uptown’s story,” she said.
To give to the fundraiser, click here.
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