People have always seen Chicago as a city full of beautiful buildings and outdoor art, but up until a few years ago, the South Loop was not part of that consideration. Columbia College’s neighborhood is a bustling hub of activity, but the mostly utilitarian architecture left much to be desired by the people who called it home. That is, until the Wabash Arts Corridor came along in 2013 with a vision for a more inspirational South Loop.
The Wabash Arts Corridor was formed by Columbia in order to connect students with their neighborhood and to make the South Loop a more inviting place to live. The group includes multiple school, gallery and performance spaces, and local businesses that are all invested in the neighborhood’s future. Since it’s creation, the WAC has been able to cover the South Loop in over 43 different murals and outdoor installations. Those works have since become part of the landscape and transformed Columbia’s campus into a humongous outdoor gallery.
Columbia’s students and alumni painted many of the murals, such as alum Heidi Unkefer’s four story tall Slime Mountain on the side of 623 S Wabash. The WAC has also looked to some of the world’s most renowned mural artists to brighten up the neighborhood. The South Loop is now host to works done by artists hailing from France, South Africa, Brazil, The Netherlands, and of course, Chicago. Year after year, new artists are brought in to breathe life onto the remaining empty walls.
Also in 2016, mural artist Marina Zumi traveled all the way from her home in Sao Paulo to put her mark on the South Loop with Impossible Meeting. The piece came together at the end of the spring semester after Zumi battled difficult weather and windy days while painting high above the ground, and the result is well worth it. Using her signature pastel colors and ethereal imagery, Zumi created two deer bursting through a fantastical and otherworldly landscape. The piece covers the base of 910 S Michigan and, along with it’s many mural neighbors, gives the block it lives on the atmosphere of a massive outdoor exhibit.
Most recently, local artist Gloria “Gloe” Talamantes has graced the side of 33 East 8th with a bright and impactful mural. The piece, which depicts a monarch butterfly in Gloe’s colorful and graphic style, was inspired by Cirque du Soleil’s new show Luiza. Gloe further incorporated her Mexican roots by including patterns that mimic the intricate stitching of her Grandmother’s traditional crocheted designs.
Only a few steps away from Gloe’s mural, you can find a 240 feet long piece done by London native Ben Eine. The mural, which reads “HARMONY” in colorful 30-foot-tall letters, sits on the University Center’s base. Eine, who has painted murals everywhere from Gibraltar to Seoul, created Harmony for the WAC in 2015.
Brooklyn based duo ASVP created their piece Make Your Own Luck for the WAC as part of a series for Vertical Paint. The mural decorates the back of 1 East Balbo with bright colors and 1950’s pop art nostalgia.
The mural by Czr Prz that adorns 1415 S Wabash is hard to miss. It spans the entire side of the building with neon and pastel colors and fascinating surrealist patterns. Created in 2016, the piece features Czr Prz’s signature combination of dream-like imagery and incredibly detailed graffiti work.
These are only a few examples of the 43 pieces South Loop locals and visitors can enjoy daily. The WAC plans to commission more murals to cover the remaining blank walls every year. To make sure you don’t miss any of the action, the WAC is hosting the upcoming WAC Crawl 2017. The event is free, open to the public, and will feature over 40 events including dance, music, and theatre performances. There will also be mural tours so you can make sure you don’t miss out on any of the art the WAC has to offer. For more information and a map with the locations of all 43 murals, head to [link].