This mural by the British artist who goes by My Dog Sighs incorporates the images within the eyes of a Dalmatian that used to live on the block.

This mural by the British artist who goes by My Dog Sighs incorporates the images within the eyes of a Dalmatian that used to live on the block.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

This West Town alley has been transformed into a gallery of murals

What started as a single mural on a garage door has blossomed. Now, more than a dozen large-scale paintings beautify this Chicago alley.

A West Town alley has become an unlikely showcase for large-scale art, with more than a dozen murals completed in recent years on garages and at the rear side of residences spanning a single block, many of them done by well-known international artists.

Chicago’s murals and mosaics sidebar

Chicago’s murals & mosaics

Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. Know of a mural or mosaic? Tell us where, and email a photo to murals@suntimes.com. We might do a story on it.

One of the murals features giant eyes above what appears to be a beak clamping down on a lit match. It was done by the Thai street artist who goes by Mue Bon.

Another mural — a piece by the Colombian artist whose professional name is Stinkfish — explodes into a kaleidoscope of colors around the face of a child.

Another — done by the Dutch duo called Pipsqueak Was Here!!! — depicts a penguin, a little girl and a giant bear against the backdrop of a skyline.

This mural — by the Dutch duo known as Pipsqueak Was Here!!! — was done in 2018. Titled “A Little Ways,” it’s “basically about how we can walk alongside nature instead of fighting it,” according to the artists.

This mural — by the Dutch duo known as Pipsqueak Was Here!!! — was done in 2018. Titled “A Little Ways,” it’s “basically about how we can walk alongside nature instead of fighting it,” according to the artists.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Other murals in the alley between Noble Street and Bishop Street, serving homes and apartments on Ohio Street and Erie Street, were done by Chicago artists and muralists from Spain, Brazil and Britain, and elsewhere.

The first of the garage doors was painted about five years ago after a homeowner admired a nearby mural by a Los Angeles artist known as Sand One and tracked her down to create something.

The Los Angeles artist who goes by the name Sand One did this mural, which was the first painting done in the West Town alley.

The Los Angeles artist who goes by the name Sand One did this mural, which was the first painting done in the West Town alley.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Patrick Hull, owner of Vertical Gallery.

Patrick Hull, owner of Vertical Gallery.

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The resident later planted a seed with Patrick Hull, owner of the Vertical Gallery, 1016 N. Western Ave., telling him that neighbors liked the idea of beautifying the alley and some were willing to give up garage doors “if you ever have any artists” looking for space.

Hull says the international street artists his gallery features like to hit the streets when they’re in Chicago to paint something new. “I’m always looking for a spot for them to paint,” he says.

So this one alley became a go-to canvas.

The mural at left, featuring a long shadow, was done by Brazilian artist Alex Senna. The mural at right, featuring crows, was done by Milwaukee native Jeremy Novy, now based in Los Angeles. He also painted koi fish on the ground in the alley.

The mural at left, featuring a long shadow, was done by Brazilian artist Alex Senna. The mural at right, featuring crows, was done by Milwaukee native Jeremy Novy, now based in Los Angeles. He also painted koi fish on the ground in the alley.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

The koi painted on the ground in the alley by Jeremy Novy.

The koi painted on the ground in the alley by Jeremy Novy.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

“None of them take any money for doing it,” Hull says. “I provide the spray paint. They usually knock it out in a day. It’s been a really fun project. The artists have loved it. It feels like a very European thing.”

From left, murals by Spanish artist Julieta XLF and E.LEE and Juan De La Mora of Chicago.

From left, murals by Spanish artist Julieta XLF and E.LEE and Juan De La Mora of Chicago.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Spanish artist Julieta XLF works on her mural in the alley earlier this winter. It’s the most recent addition to the alley gallery of murals.

Spanish artist Julieta XLF works on her mural in the alley earlier this winter. It’s the most recent addition to the alley gallery of murals.

Provided

The man who initiated the entire effort — who didn’t want to be identified — says the murals “just started piecemeal. There was no grand plan, it just kept growing.”

The buildings’ owners “didn’t tell the artists what to do,” he says, but there was a desire that there be “no politics, nothing scary.”

This alley between Noble and Bishop streets is filled with art, including the mural, left, by Thai artist Mue Bon and, at right, a mural by the Colombian artist known as Stinkfish.

This alley between Noble and Bishop streets is filled with art, including the mural, left, by Thai artist Mue Bon and, at right, a mural by the Colombian artist known as Stinkfish.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

He also recruited Chicago artist Juan De La Mora, who painted two large cardinals on a brick building on the alley. The birds, one on each side of the corner of a building, face each other as if kissing. They’re set against violets — Illinois’ state flower with the state bird.

De La Mora also painted butterflies that, when the ivy on the building is green and thick, are tough to see.

“I think there should be more of these types of alleys,” whether they’re used “to paint, to gather, to walk, to do yoga,” De La Mora says. “Alleys shouldn’t be scary spaces.”

Juan De La Mora painted these murals of cardinals and violets and also painted several large butterflies in the alley.

Juan De La Mora painted these murals of cardinals and violets and also painted several large butterflies in the alley.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

The same resident also connected with a Chicago artist who goes by Lie to paint in the alley. The result is a blue-lipped, helmeted child, with several birds seeming to explode outward.

This mural on a garage door was done by the McHenry County artist who goes by Lie, and who says the girl represents “innocence, the good in you.”

This mural on a garage door was done by the McHenry County artist who goes by Lie, and who says the girl represents “innocence, the good in you.”

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

This mural was done by Dutch artist Collin van der Sluijs.

This mural was done by Dutch artist Collin van der Sluijs.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

This mural, titled “Neighbors,” was painted in 2019 by the Chicago artist E.LEE, who says neighborhood residents “wanted street art in their alley . . . to create a space where people wanted to be . . . a positive place for their family and their neighbors to congregate and interact. I made the painting with that in mind . . . a white horse and two colorful birds are very different, but they were going about their lives harmoniously right next to one another.”

This mural, titled “Neighbors,” was painted in 2019 by the Chicago artist E.LEE, who says neighborhood residents “wanted street art in their alley . . . to create a space where people wanted to be . . . a positive place for their family and their neighbors to congregate and interact. I made the painting with that in mind . . . a white horse and two colorful birds are very different, but they were going about their lives harmoniously right next to one another.”

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

The man who started this says it “was an attempt at making the alley interesting” and to give people on the block a greater sense of community.

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

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