Near West Side mural features flamingos — and one beleaguered looking bear
Wicker Park artist JC Rivera’s signature “Bear Champ” character is back, this time in a mass of pink.
Standing out in a crowd — that’s one theme conveyed by JC Rivera’s mural on the Near West Side.
But the crowd? Well, it’s a little . . . pink. As in flamingos, the tropical birds.
Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. More murals are added every week.
And the figure standing out in that crowd — it’s a bear. Not just any bear, but a character known as “Bear Champ” who’s a signature creature in Rivera’s murals, with a worn expression, a bandage on his head and, sometimes boxing gloves on his hands and a crown hovering over his scalp.
The Bear Champ represents rolling “with the punches” — something Rivera, 42, says he identifies with.
The mural was completed last fall on the side of a four-story brick building at 1366 W. Ohio St. that includes apartments on the upper floors and a grocery on the ground level.
Titled “Lovers Like Flamingos,” Rivera says the idea for the wall came from an affinity for flamingos he and his daughter share.
The Wicker Park resident also likes painting Bear Champ so he sticks out from a pattern. He similarly painted a mural in Humboldt Park last year where the character was surrounded by bulls — angry-looking red ones like the Chicago Bulls logo. The Bear Champ in that instance gripped a basketball and had his tongue sticking out — an homage to Michael Jordan and the 1996 champion Bulls squad.
Rivera grew up in Puerto Rico surrounded by art — his father, siblings and grandfather were all artists, but he’s the only one in his family to do art professionally.
First, though, he studied computer science at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico.
Later, he moved to Chicago and became immersed in street art and gallery art.