A Chicago businessman saw some artists painting boarded-up buildings. Here’s what came next.
“So I went up to them and said, ‘This is super-cool. I have a business. I always wanted to have some murals,’ ” David Chaimovitz says. And now he does.
You probably wouldn’t guess that the brick building near Grand and Chicago avenues on which all of the above are painted is the headquarters of the aircraft parts company Setna iO.
The building is awash with murals. Many of them beg for an explanation: What is that? Others give a nod to the aviation industry, with their cartoonish characters in aviator goggles zipping around in little planes.
The outdoor art resulted from a chance encounter during the civil unrest of 2020 between David Chaimovitz, the aircraft parts company’s chief executive officer, and the street artist who goes by Bird Milk.
“I was on Division Street, and there was a peaceful protest and tons of people were there, and I see these guys painting all the boarded-up windows,” Chaimovitz says. “They were making some lemonade out of lemons. So I went up to them and said, ‘This is super-cool. I have a business. I always wanted to have some murals.’ ”
Bird Milk says: “David came up to me while I was painting another mural and asked about painting his building. Then, I just reached out to friends to see who wanted to paint.”
“We had a blast hanging out painting with all these amazing artists,” he says.
Chaimovitz says he gave the artists pretty much free rein, telling them: “If you can incorporate aviation into it, that’s cool. If not, that’s also cool. Come and have some fun, and make the city more beautiful.”
Many of those who painted the walls of the West Side business were seasoned street artists. But this was the first outdoor mural project for James Eastwood, a tattoo artist.
“I had asked my friend Chris” — the street artist who goes by Killabunz and who was involved in the West Side mural project — “to let me know if he ever has free space on a wall because I wanted to do a mural,” Eastwood says.
“I wasn’t sure what to paint, and Chris suggested I do a rubber duck and a skull because I’m a tattooer, so, of course, I dig skulls,” Eastwood says. “But I also have a bit of a rubber duck collection that was started as gifts that were a little bit of just a joke by a friend of mine.”
“It was my first mural,” Eastwood says.
Jeff Pak, who was one of the more experienced muralists involved in the project, painted a blue-and-pink wolf that stands, arms crossed, tongue out, a patch covering one eye.
The creature appears next to a cartoonish girl who seems dazzled by jelly beans and a rainbow in a work by the artist KOZMO, who says it’s “my interpretation” of the animated character Princess Bubblegum.
Pak says “the wolf I painted was kind of just a tough guy I wanted to paint in contrast to the cuteness of Princess Bubblegum. Tough, cool, eye-patched wolf dude.”
Though the building is now pretty well covered with art, “We’re still kind of adding to it as time goes on and as I encounter more artists,” Chaimovitz says, noting that a Thai artist who goes by Alex Face completed a mural there recently.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.