In Chicago, there’s been a celebration of the country music icon for two years in Edgewater, ever since a large mural of Parton was painted in the 5500 block of North Broadway outside a venue called the Lytle House.
Michelle Lytle, who runs the event space with her wife Robyn Lytle, says the gate outside their building kept getting hit with graffiti. So they decided to showcase their own artwork there to discourage taggers and brighten the well-traversed North Side stretch of road.
Why Parton? Lytle says that, growing up, she was “mildly obsessed” with her music.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. More murals are added every week.
While she has a deep appreciation for Parton’s talent, Lytle says she also admires Parton’s commitment to LGBTQ rights.
“A lot of people think of Dolly Parton as big boobs and big hair,” Lytle says. “But she’s a pretty incredible person.”
Parton — who is 73, lives outside Nashville and has been married to husband Carl Dean for more than 50 years — has affirmed her support for the LGBTQ community in interviews and has become an icon in the gay community in Edgewater and elsewhere.
“I do not think we should criticize and judge other people,” Parton said in a 2016 interview with Larry King. “I think we should be accepting and loving. We are all God’s children. We are who we are, and we should … be allowed to be who we are.”
An arts enthusiast, Lytle says she hopes to fill Edgewater with more public art. Through her business, Lytle says she has helped install three other murals in the area.
Lytle says that, when designing the Parton mural, she figured it would resonate with people.
She says that she was touching up her version of Parton earlier this year, and several passers-by stopped to thank her for the mural, saying it “gave them a smile on their way to work.”
Parton is the rare country star showcased on a Chicago mural. Other musicians featured on murals across the city include Nat King Cole, Jennifer Hudson, Prince and Selena.
The Parton mural is sometimes mistaken for actress Farrah Fawcett or other celebrities known for big hair.
“The people who find her and know it’s Dolly right away, their minds are blown that she exists and that she’s there,” Lytle says.
She says Lytle House’s security-camera footage often captures professional and impromptu photo shoots taking place in front of the mural.
Ryan Hamman, who married Matthew Carney at Lytle House in June, says the Parton mural was one of the reasons they decided to have their wedding there.
“When we fell in love with the space and the mural was there, we were, like, ‘We have to book this,’ ” says Hamman, 26.
His wedding photos were shot in front of the mural. Among the songs played at their wedding reception: Parton’s “9 to 5.”
Click on map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals