Fleeing Hurricane Ida, Langston Allston came to Chicago and created this mural
The artist says his inspiration was the generosity and charity that came after the hurricane ravaged much of Louisiana.
It was an “emotionally intense time for me,” Allston says. One way he coped was to paint a mural that he completed on the Near West Side about a month after the storm ravaged Louisiana.
Spanning two exterior walls of a Salvation Army building at 20 S. Campbell Ave., it features a scene of “people united together” in a “family-embrace type scenario,” says Allston, 31.
It also shows a woman handing someone a blanket in an “act of charity,” reflecting the Salvation Army’s mission, says Allston, who painted the faces and hands in bold reds and blues against backgrounds heavy on orange and yellow.
“Using bold colors makes it nicer for me to look at,” he says.
He says his inspiration was the generosity and charity that came after Hurricane Ida destroyed homes, knocked out power and forced many from their neighborhoods.
“I tried to paint a little bit of apprehension in the faces of people receiving the charity,” he says, “because I think that goes hand in hand with organizations passing out charity.”
Allston was hired to do the mural thanks to a friend and fellow muralist known as Penny Pinch, who knew the Salvation Army was looking for an artist whose vision “would vibe well with that space and that congregation and that community.”
Allston grew up in Champaign and, thanks to his father, was into comic books and “all types of literature.”
“I was exposed to that type of expression really thoroughly as a kid,” he says. “It introduced me to being able to tell a story and have people listen and, like, make it beautiful.”
He did his first mural in 2014. After creating one in New Orleans in 2015, he decided to stay on there but says he is “still really strongly anchored to Chicago.”
When he started making murals, Allston says he would go into each one with a “specific propaganda intent,” like dealing with police violence.
But he says: “I got depressed by the process of that all. It’s exhausting to make work that’s intentionally propaganda, I think.”
Now, he says he tries to focus on “telling personal stories.”
Allston says he wants his art to offer something for “any viewer, especially viewers of color and especially Black viewers.
“I wanted to make beautiful Black art that wasn’t trauma-centered that could tell stories that were maybe traumatic or intense but in a way that was elegant.”
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.