Take a detour off Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square, and you’ll find a sprawling side street gallery of murals.
Near the intersection of Milwaukee and North Richmond Street, cartoon characters and mythical creatures will help guide you to see the murals along the alley.
Not far away, near Milwaukee and West Medill Avenue, there’s even more public art, though it takes a little effort to find it.
The murals are part of a project by Billy Craven, the owner of Galerie F, 2415 N. Milwaukee Ave. When the gallery moved there about eight years ago, Craven began contacting property owners to try to persuade them to allow their walls, businesses and garages to become canvases. It was a tough sell.
“You knock on 100 doors, you get 99 ‘no’s,” Craven says.
But enough people said yes that the result is a kind of “mini-gallery,” according to Terence Byas, who painted one of the murals and who goes by the name Dredske.
Craven says he was tired of seeing gang graffiti and brown spray paint all over the neighborhood and was aiming to add some “intentional color.”
Part of that is Byas’ piece, titled “Mother of Invention,” which the artist says he hopes gives people a bit of a lift and inspires more murals.
“Something they can walk by on their way home, on their way to work,” Byas says. “Maybe the kids will like it, too.”
His mural features a woman painted in blue and surrounded by colorful shapes. He says it combines elements of his two styles: the portraits he favored when he was younger and the abstract style he prefers now.
Byas says the final product was the result of pouring a host of ideas and inspirations into a “blender” — thus “Mother of Invention.”
“I wanted to give you something different, give you something you haven’t seen before,” he says.
Beyond the visual appeal, Craven says he hopes the murals will boost the community in other ways, too. He’d like to see art tours come to the neighborhood, prompting people to spend money at businesses in the area.
The murals offer people an art fix even if they can’t get to museums, says Alex Duke, who goes by Wizardskull. A former illustrator with an interest in cartoons, Duke painted a mural from shapes he took from animated Bart Simpson images. His idea was to make it look as if he’d painted the character from memory again and again.
There’s no sponsor for the murals besides Craven.
He says the murals get replaced as needed. The artists have worked in bitter cold and snow.
“That’s a Chicago artist,” Craven says. “They are resilient.”
Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals.