Rogers Park mural addresses racial unrest of the past year
Artists CJ Williams and Kristianna Jacques painted “Color Through Chaos” on the side of a restaurant in response to weeks of protests in Chicago over the summer.
With images of plants sprouting, flowers everywhere and a bright colorful palette, it’s no wonder how the mural “Color Through Chaos” came by the first part of its title.
But artists Kristianna Jacques and CJ Williams say there’s more to the mural they painted last summer on an outside wall of Honeybear Cafe, 7036 N. Clark St. They say it was a way for them to address the protests that took place following George Floyd’s killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis last year.
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Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. More murals are added every week.
Jacques says the aim was to create an uplifting work using spray paint after seeing a lot of graffiti attacking police.
“We wanted to show that you can do something, still with spray paint, that can be a positive message,” says Jacques, 31. “And to move forward with so much going on between the pandemic, social and political unrest.”
The center of the painting depicts a sun with rain clouds at each side. That pretty much is the theme of the mural, Jacques says, showing people not to “get stuck in those clouds.”
Words like “elevate” and “inspire” are woven into the painting, those two in the form of leaves.
“Obviously having ‘Black Lives Matter’ in there somewhere was important, speaking to the times,” Williams says. “We didn’t want that to be the main theme of the wall even though that was a central focus of why we were doing it.”
As a Black man, Williams says the mural was especially meaningful. Williams, 37, who lives in Lincoln Square and grew up nearby in Uptown, attended a few protests last summer but says he wanted to leave a more lasting message through his art.
“Me being there for other people to know, ‘Hey, there are Black people out here who can do positive things and nonviolent things, that care about their community,’ ” Williams says. “I feel like my people are just condemned to being looked at in this violent way or like we’re not helping society.”
The idea for the mural came from an old sketch Jacques had in her notebook of a sun-like image. Jacques works as a licensed clinical social worker for an insurance company. This was her first venture into public art and her first effort with spray paint.
Williams, a professional breakdancer, says he had a lot of experience with spray painting, though this work was more abstract. He says he’s done more than 20 public art projects around Chicago.
Williams and Jacques met years ago but reconnected over art in response to the protests last summer.
Jacques contacted Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) about doing a mural, and she put them in contact with the Rogers Park Business Alliance, which pointed them to the Honeybear Cafe.
Cafe owner Prudence Faklaris says she had wanted a mural since she took over the space in November 2019. Faklaris says her main direction was to make it “as bright and colorful as you can make it.” She also asked that the artists offer a positive message in response to the pandemic and social unrest.
“A lot of people use it for family photos and stuff like that as a nice little backdrop,” says Faklaris, 36. “It’s pretty eye-catching obviously, and that was the whole idea behind it.”