At Gately Park on the Far South Side, kids study music, play sports like soccer and run track.
A mosaic that wraps a large column outside a youth center at the park captures all of that.
It took two years, beginning in 2019, to complete, with more than 100 kids working on it through the After School Matters program.
“I feel proud of my kids,” says artist Mirtes Zwierzynski, the leader of the project, who was born in Brazil and moved to Chicago in 1981. “They are able to produce such things with responsibility and consistently under pressure.”
Having so many collaborators made the mosaic an “entirely democratic” process, says Alex Goldin, who worked with Zwierzynski.
“Mirtes pulled aside a couple of students, and we started coming up with very preliminary designs based on the things that they told us,” Goldin says. “They told us what Gately was about, what was going on there, the classes that they offered and, of course, the world-renowned track that’s there. We ran that by our full class, and then they came up with their own ideas.”
The artwork was installed in November at the park at 10201 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
It features images of a woman singing, with musical notes swirling around her while a woman dances above her. There’s a girl running along a track while a boy kicks a soccer ball. All done with imported Venetian tiles.
Heaven Hill, 17, a Senn High School student who worked on the mosaic, says the students worked on small parts that, in the end, were all fitted together.
“We have a really, really big printout that’s the actual size of the build, and we traced out different sections,” she says of the process. “Basically, you take a really small portion. Some pieces I did are kind of spread all throughout.”
Now a junior, she was in her first year of high school when the work began.
“It’s really satisfying,” she says. “You see the entire piece come together really slowly — and just the amount of relief that you feel when you see the entire piece put together all at once.”
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a Chicago Sun-Times reporter via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.