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This three-dimensional mural by Matheu Bourque along Howard Street aims to capture the sense of community in Rogers Park.

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3D mural on Howard Street in Rogers Park aims to capture the essence of a community

Pilsen artist Matheu Bourque figured he didn’t know the neighborhood well enough, so he spoke with people who do and listened to them as he painted.

This three-dimensional mural by Matheu Bourque along Howard Street aims to capture the sense of community in Rogers Park.
| Emily Rosca / Sun-Times

When Matheu Bourque isn’t painting murals, he’s building furniture.

For Bourque, the wood’s grain equates to the brushstrokes in a mural.

Whichever art form he’s engaged in — he also sculpts and experiments with sound — he says the particular medium he chooses allows him to tell a story.

The 44-year-old Chicago artist says you can look at a piece of his furniture for a lifetime and see something new in it each time.

The same thing might be said of his only public mural in Chicago, on a building at 1419 W. Howard St. in the Far North Side neighborhood.

The vibrant work, titled “Creative Collective” and completed in two parts in 2015 and 2016, creates the “backdrop and texture” of what a community is, according to Bourque. Which is why the Rogers Park Business Alliance chose the design.

Based on the architecture of brick and boarded windows of the building, the artwork features figurative trompe l’oeil, a three-dimensional painting technique.

Another view of the mural by Matheu Bourque.
Another view of the mural by Matheu Bourque.
Emily Rosca / Sun-Times

Red-, yellow- and blue-trimmed windows showcase a series of colorful scenes. Two women passing flowers. A boy playing a trumpet. A cat peering onto the street.

Located at the northern gateway to Rogers Park facing Sheridan Road, the mural aims to convey the sense of community often associated with the neighborhood.

“It’s really about how we are different and coexist together,” Bourque says. “How that expression comes out and how it’s represented in our lives.”

He says he tried to showcase what it means to be “free from that burden, from the troubles” of politics. Which is why he didn’t want the focus to be on age, gender or ethnicity and instead to convey a universality.

Living in Pilsen since moving to Chicago in 2007, the artist says he felt insecure about doing the mural, wondering, “Am I the right person to do this?”

Chicago artist Matheu Bourque in front of the three-dimensional mural he painted at 1419 W. Howard St. in 2015 and 2016.
Chicago artist Matheu Bourque in front of the three-dimensional mural he painted at 1419 W. Howard St. in 2015 and 2016.
Provided photo

To get a sense of the community, he says he spoke with a wide range of people who live and work in Rogers Park.

As he painted the mural, people passing by would chime in with their impressions of what he was creating.

“My gauge as to whether it was successful or not is,” he says, “were they able to identify with it on their own regardless of gender or ethnicity of who was represented.”

Working full-time at a manufacturing company, Bourque creates when he finds the time. His recent work includes collaborating with his wife to paint a mural at her flower shop.

The artist says his French, Hawaiian and Chinese background shapes how he views and creates art. He figures passers-by seeing his mural similarly will view it through the lens of their own backgrounds and experience.

“It’s up to the individual to really identify with who they are and follow that and believe in that,” Bourque says.

Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals.

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