An impromptu graffiti session in the alley outside District Brew Yards at last year's Titan Walls fest. Credit: Muros

WEST LOOP — Titan Walls, Chicago’s largest mural festival, returns this week to District Brew Yards in the West Loop and other locations around the city for seven days of food, beer, music and, of course, art.

This is the festival’s fifth year and the largest celebration so far, with a party on Friday and Saturday that will spill out onto Hubbard Street between Ashland Avenue and Armour Street. There will be live music from DJ Boathouse and DJ RTC, an arcade, an oversized beer pong and a small business village and immersive family-friendly Beach House, all fueled by vendors serving barbecue, churros and Pretty Cool Ice Cream pops.

But the main attraction, as it has been since Titan Walls began in 2019, is the chance to watch more than a dozen artists from Chicago and around the world paint murals on the walls of District Brew Yards. The artists began painting this week.

“When we started the festival, people said it would be like watching paint dry,” said Dave Seidler, the co-founder and CEO of Muros, the organization that sponsors Titan Walls. “But it’s exciting to see artists up close to the wall painting epic murals. I’m still in awe every time it happens.”

Credit: Muros
The 2022 Titan Walls gathering

Muros is an art activation agency, meaning it pairs artists and corporations to create original works of art for marketing and advertising. While most artists are happy to participate, Seidler and his colleagues noticed that working with businesses put certain constraints on their creative freedom. There were also artists they wanted to work with whose work didn’t satisfy the demands of their clients, Seidler said.

They established Titan Walls as a way to give artists a chance to paint however they wanted (as long as it wasn’t overtly political or otherwise inappropriate).

“It’s really fun for them,” Seidler said. “We see a lot of the artists’ best work. They show off everything they have. And they’re with artists they may have known but never met, and they come together. There’s a lot of energy and excitement. They’re feeding off each other.”

Last year, the festival culminated in an impromptu freestyle graffiti session in the alley outside District Brew Yards. A crowd of spectators crammed into the alley to watch. Seidler said it was the best moment of the entire festival.

Titan Walls recruits participants through an open call and through invitations to artists the Muros team particularly admires or enjoys working with. Then, after a series of what Seidler described as “internal debates,” the team decides who will paint which wall. 

Over the years, the festival has expanded beyond the confines of District Brew Yards to buildings in the West Loop and Logan Square. The District Brew Yards murals stay up for a year, until the next festival. The other locations are more variable, depending on the whims of the buildings’ owners, but Seidler hopes they will be longer-lasting, and he tries to assign those spots to artists who have traveled the farthest.

This year’s artists include local artists Sentrock, Oscar Joyo, Dan Estep and Shayne Taylor. Visiting artists include Lula Goce from Spain, Miami Nate from South Florida, Michelle Guerrero (aka Mr B Baby) from San Diego, Chelsea Lewinski from Denver and Rodrigo Oñate Roco from Minneapolis.

The event has also attracted a number of corporate sponsors, including the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Fire, Hartford Insurance and Mercedes-Benz, which has provided a eSprinter van that will be painted by Chicago artist Blake Jones.

Last year’s festival attracted more than 2,500 people. This year, Seidler hopes to exceed that. But he also hopes that the core of the festival will be preserved.

“When we started Muros, we got to see so much art in the making,” he said. “We wanted to provide a way for people in Chicago to experience that as well.”

Titan Walls runs Aug. 7-12 throughout the West Loop and Logan Square. The Muros Beach House will be open 4-8 p.m. Friday and noon-8 p.m. Saturday at District Brew Yards, 417 N. Ashland. The main community party is noon-8 p.m. Saturday, also at District Brew Yards.

Tickets are free, but reservations are recommended at the Titan Walls website.

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