Street artists compare styles at mural painting under Skyway: ‘It’s beautiful’
The artists were taking part in the international “Meeting of Styles” festival, which returned to Chicago this weekend for its fourth year. Some of the artists came from Mexico and Germany to paint viaduct walls near Commercial and South Chicago avenues.
Michael Scott traveled across the city to the South Chicago neighborhood Sunday to marvel at the work of street artists.
Dozens of them were spray painting murals simultaneously on the towering walls of the Skyway’s viaducts.
“You’ve got to appreciate what they do with spray paint,” Scott said. “The skill it takes. Man, I love it.”
Scott gave up spray painting in grammar school and now makes hip-hop beats. But he sees little distinction between the visual and audio realms. “It’s all still a part of hip-hop,” he says.
The street artists were taking part in the international “Meeting of Styles” festival, which returned to Chicago this weekend for its fourth year. Some of the artists came from Mexico and Germany to paint viaduct walls near Commercial and South Chicago avenues.
Within earshot was the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade, which passed through an underpass crowded with street artists at work.
The festival’s organizers said the Southeast Side event has become an important way for the street artist community to come together.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.
Riley Spade drove four hours from Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday morning to paint the viaduct wall in eye-catching pastel colors.
Spade said he was “super hyped” when he found out the group he collaborates with in Chicago — UBC, or United by Colors — locked a spot for painting at the event. He valued it as a chance to see a range of styles from other artists.
“My style is completely different from somebody in Chicago. So showcasing that different style, meeting all the people and getting a wall of paint — it’s beautiful. I love it,” Spade said.
Little Village-based artist who calls herself Phina has been spray painting since she was 12. She was painting a collaborative mural with a friend and artist named Bell, from Archer Heights.
They painted stylized versions of their names on either side of a scene that look like a spray-paint-can-turned-human emerging from the top of a large green blob.
A metaphor? “It’s pretty much like a sloppy, blobbing-looking human that got taken over by graffiti. So graffiti is pretty much winning,” Phina says.
Phina uses bright colors to grab attention. Although most artists at the Meeting of Styles worked independently, Phina said the piece was “our way of collaborating in a fun way.”
Farther down the viaduct is a striking scene: A Green Goblin-like character emerging from behind highly stylized writing. Its artist, Ibone, has been working since Friday but doesn’t seem to be in a rush. An open beer can rests on his ladder.
The festival is a challenge to paint something unique, Ibone said. “You gotta come with something fresh, something new,” he said. The event is a chance to meet old friends and also new people. “Everybody’s having fun.”
Another artist who calls himself Prismo came from Lake Station in northwest Indiana. He said he couldn’t pass up his second year to come to paint in Chicago. “They said, hey, we’ve got this event, totally legal. Just bring your paint and have a good time.”
He’s drawn to the diversity of the artists that travel for Meeting of Styles. “You see all sorts of demographics, people into different types of things, all coming together and doing something decent,” Prismo said.
It’s also an opportunity to reflect on other artists and their techniques.
“Like that guy with those letters there,” Prismo said, pointing to a mural farther down the viaduct. “I don’t even know how he does that. And he did that in two hours and I’ve been here for like five hours. It’s just interesting to see what people can pull off with spray cans.”