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Ryan Tova Katz’s mural “Livvy In the Sky” adorns the wall overlooking Weisman Playground at 901 W. Oakdale Ave. in Lake View.
Ryan Tova Katz’s mural “Livvy In the Sky” adorns the wall overlooking Weisman Playground at 901 W. Oakdale Ave. in Lake View.
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Ryan Tova Katz wants kids to see joy and themselves in her murals

The Roscoe Village artist thought there should be more images of children of color and finds satisfaction “watching people come by and being, like, ‘That’s me.’ ”

If the sounds of kids playing at Weisman Playground aren’t enough to give you a sense of childhood joy, just look up.

There’s also a four-story mural — titled “Livvy in the Sky” — at the park at 901 W. Oakdale Ave. that shows a young girl playing on playground equipment.

It’s the latest in a series of murals by Roscoe Village artist Ryan Tova Katz spotlighting kids in Chicago.

Katz, 38, says she’s tried to help fill what she saw as a void in public art around Chicago.

Ryan Tova Katz on a scissor lift, taking a break from painting a mural titled “Butterfly Girl” at Irving Park Road and Janssen Avenue.
Ryan Tova Katz on a scissor lift, taking a break from painting a mural titled “Butterfly Girl” at Irving Park Road and Janssen Avenue.
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“I just was looking around at everything, and I was, like, ‘There’s just not enough imagery of children of color in beautiful scenarios,’ ” Katz says.

Katz says she often gets inspiration for her murals from Milo, her 3-year-old, who’s a friend of the real-life “Livvy.”

Rebecca Gimenez’s 10-year-old daughter Pepper is the kid Katz included in her mural titled “Purple Heart,” which she did last year in Evanston on a building across from the CTA’s Foster Avenue L stop on the Purple Line.

Ryan Tova Katz’s four-story mural “Purple Hearts,” near the CTA’s Foster Avenue L station on the Purple Line in Evanston, which she painted last year.
Ryan Tova Katz’s four-story mural “Purple Hearts,” near the CTA’s Foster Avenue L station on the Purple Line in Evanston, which she painted last year.
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“It gives us a lot of joy knowing that the particular mural she’s in you can see from the CTA,” says Gimenez, 45, who lives in Uptown. “We love the idea that it might become part of somebody’s routine and brighten their day a little bit.”

Amy Nussvaum was walking in Lake View and discovered another of Katz’s murals in this series, “Butterfly Girl,” at Irving Park Road and Janssen Avenue. The image, which features a young girl who is Black, struck a chord with Nussvaum, who came back later with her 3-year-old daughter Galit, who is Black.

Ryan Tova Katz’s three-story mural “Butterfly Girl” at Irving Park Road and Janssen Avenue, completed in May.
Ryan Tova Katz’s three-story mural “Butterfly Girl” at Irving Park Road and Janssen Avenue, completed in May.
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“I feel like oftentimes, when you’re the parent of a Black child or of any child that falls into a minority group in America, you really have to seek out ways to find representation for them,” says Nussvaum, 41.

“When she saw ‘herself’ painted on this building, it really meant a lot to her,” she says of her daughter. “And being able to show her that she’s so pretty and so gorgeous that someone painted a huge picture of someone that looks just like her means a lot to me.”

Nussvaum contacted Katz to thank her and to ask whether her daughter Libi, 4, who’s also Black, might be featured in a future mural. She will be.

Katz says responses like that of Galit and her mom are the most rewarding thing about her mural work.

“Watching people come by and being, like, ‘That’s me,’ because they don’t see themselves,” Katz says. “Now, they can.”

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