Thanks to a series of splashy new large-scale murals, the South Loop is becoming the city's latest hub for public art.
Columbia College alumnus Ruben Aguirre's mural.
One wall at a time, Wabash Avenue is getting a lot more colorful. Give credit to Mark Kelly, Columbia College Vice President for Student Success, who in 2013 launched the Wabash Arts Corridor to do something about the state of the street right outside one of Chicago’s most vibrant educational institutions. “Not much traffic, lots of parking lots, lots of empty walls,” recalls Kelly. “We have 9,000 students in the creative disciplines, but when they would leave buildings, [there was no] sense of campus and place or connectivity.”
What a change a few years makes: Since its launch, WAC has covered more than 40 of those empty walls with murals by artists ranging from Columbia students to renowned muralists like Collin van der Sluijs of the Netherlands, whose gorgeous flora- and fauna-inspired work, Kelly raves, is “one of the best street murals in this country, probably the world.” The movement, he notes, has made the district an “urban living campus”—and has even caught on beyond Wabash, with Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra’s recent 10-story mural of blues legend Muddy Waters at 17 N. State St. Says Kelly, “The Wabash Arts Corridor [is] a geographic area, but it’s also become an idea. The momentum is amazing.” Wabash Avevenue between Van Buren Street and Roosevelt Road