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Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris have been bringing murals to Chicago and Evanston since 2005.

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Couple has been bringing murals to Rogers Park, Evanston for 15 years

Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris have been painting murals around Chicago and Evanston since 2005, adding 24 pieces to the city’s public art landscape.

Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris have been bringing murals to Chicago and Evanston since 2005.
| Robin Subar

Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris were artists long before they got married. For 15 years, they’ve worked together to cover Evanston and Rogers Park in vast, vibrant murals.

Pinsky and Harris, Evanston natives, have dipped their toes in all types of art.

Pinsky, 46, previously was an actress in New York and has worked with children’s art programs.

Harris, 49, has dabbled in graffiti and breakdancing.

Neither gave much thought to painting murals until they started doing them together in 2005.

A mural by Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris on Howard Street on the city’s North Side.
A mural by Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris on Howard Street on the city’s North Side.
Provided

The two met in a high school guitar class in the 1980s. Harris was graduating. Pinsky still had a few years left of school, so she took a shot and gave him her phone number.

“I thought, ‘I’m never gonna see that cute guy in my guitar class again,’ ” Pinsky says.

They hung out together and became friends but “totally lost track of each other” when Harris went to Columbia College Chicago.

Until 15 years later. Pinsky was at a kids’ performance for her job when someone dropped a water bottle onto her shoulder from a balcony. She looked around to see what had happened. A man sitting nearby asked: Are you OK? It was Harris.

Dustin Harris works on one of the 24 murals he’s painted with his wife Lea Pinsky.
Dustin Harris works on one of the 24 murals he’s painted with his wife Lea Pinsky.
Provided
Lea Pinsky working on a mural on the city’s North Side.
Lea Pinsky working on a mural on the city’s North Side.
Provided photo

After the show, Pinsky was talking with a coworker about the performance when she mentioned the water bottle incident. The coworker happened to be Harris’ mom, who helped the two rekindle their friendship.

Pinsky and Harris found they had common interests, particularly art.

“We haven’t been together without working together,” Pinsky says. “It’s such a strong part of our relationship.”

Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris in their Evanston studio, where they do their own individual work and plan mural projects they’ll do together.
Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris in their Evanston studio, where they do their own individual work and plan mural projects they’ll do together.
Mary Norkol / Sun-Times

They were married in 2008 and have a 9-year-old son, Jasper.

They’ve painted 24 murals in Chicago and Evanston together, and each has painted about eight solo murals as well.

They say their skills complement each other. Pinsky focuses on the big picture. Harris takes care of the details.

Much of their work features geometric designs and bright colors, much like a kaleidoscope or works of stained glass. But they also sprinkle in human faces and quotes like “we are here, our time is now” and “the future belongs to all of us.”

Many of the murals done by Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris feature bright colors and geometric designs.
Many of the murals done by Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris feature bright colors and geometric designs.
Provided

They say each mural reminds them of the process they went through creating it.

Painting in Rogers Park “is always interesting, with all the characters who walk by,” Harris says.

This is one of the murals done by Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris on Howard Street in Rogers Park.
One of the murals done by Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris on Howard Street in Rogers Park.
Provided

One man who walked by a mural-in-progress several times asked Harris to include his name in the finished work. He thought about it and ended up weaving the names of the man and three friends into a bicycle wheel.

Another time, a traffic cop kept telling Pinsky how she thought the mural could be better.

“She was on my team, no doubt,” Pinsky says.

Pinsky and Harris also have enlisted kids on some of their murals at schools, which Pinsky says “gives them a different relationship with their school, a sense of ownership and pride.”

Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris work on one of their murals.
Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris work on one of their murals.
Provided

Beyond their own work, Pinsky and Harris have brought other artists into the Rogers Park “Mile of Murals” project and the Evanston Mural Arts Program, run by the organization Art Encounter, for which Pinsky is executive director.

For those two projects, they’ve managed 22 murals by Chicago artists Anthony Lewellen, Juan-Carlos Perez, Jeff Zimmermann and Louise Jones, also known as Ouizi, and others. Pinsky and Harris say they try to find artists who will add something to a particular neighborhood.

“Who’s a hardworking artist? Who’s doing quality work?” Harris says. “That’s a hustle.”

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

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