Tyrue “Slang” Jones became “obsessed” with drawing birds as a kid because he’d always see them in the art books his mother got him.
The West Humboldt Park artist has been creating bird art ever since.
His latest: the graffiti-style “Birds of Concern” mural at 1901 Central St. in Evanston that features three vulnerable birds found in Illinois: a redheaded woodpecker, an American kestrel and a Blackburnian warbler.
Lea Pinsky, who, as executive director of the Evanston organization Art Encounter, helped oversee the mural project, says the work is not only “beautiful and uplifting” but “also has a purpose for the community and builds awareness around a really important issue.”
Bird populations have been plummeting as a result of pollution, habitat destruction and climate change.
Jones, 51, says he’s been influenced by different artistic styles. For the Evanston mural, he returned to one he knows well — graffiti art. That influence can be seen in the exaggerated, curling vines and branches.
At the center of the piece is an adult male American kestrel, a bird that can be seen year-round in Illinois and is easily identifiable by the signature pair of black slashes on its face.
The mural also depicts the bright yellow, adult male Blackburnian warbler, which migrates through Illinois to breed in southern Canada, and a red-headed woodpecker — another Illinois resident that’s the most threatened of the three, the result of habitat loss.
The mural — which brightens the exterior of businesses and is about 15 feet tall — is the result of a collaboration between Art Encounter and the Evanston North Shore Bird Club.
“We wanted it to be a melding of art and science,” says Libby Hill, who leads the bird group.
“Murals can help the viewer position themselves in a world beyond their own lives,” says Pinsky, who also helped put together Rogers Park’s Mile of Murals, another project that included birds among its subjects and Jones among the artists.
“It beautifies the environment and brightens their day, but it’s also got them to think a little bit more about the world they live in and maybe take action.”