Southwest Side artist Penny Burns painted this mural in Lyons.

Southwest Side artist Penny Burns painted this mural in Lyons.


A car crashed into a wall in Lyons, and that’s how this mural got its ‘phoenix rising’

In Penny Burns’ mural, though, the mythical bird isn’t rising from the ashes. It’s rising from the nearby Des Plaines River.

A car made a big impact on a mural in Lyons in 2021.

Someone driving on Ogden Avenue in the southwest suburb flew off the road and into Waterworks Pizzeria & Tavern, injuring people working there and destroying part of a brick wall — and a mural on that wall that artist Penny Burns had created the previous year.

This happened not long after a fire damaged part of the building’s interior.

The brick wall eventually was rebuilt. And last fall Burns restored her creation. She also added something.

“We decided to paint the phoenix rising, as it seemed appropriate,” Burns wrote on Facebook, referring to the mythical bird said to have risen, reborn, from the ashes.

Penny Burns at work on her Lyons mural.

Penny Burns at work on her Lyons mural.

Mike Vasquez

Her phoenix, though, is “rising from the Des Plaines River,” nearby.

In the original version, which Burns painted in 2020, there was an oldtime lamppost where the phoenix is now.

“It seemed like a nice ending to the story of what happened,” Burns, who lives on the Southwest Side, says of the rising bird.

Burns had been working with bars in the city and suburbs including Summit, Bridgeview and Justice to put on art shows at the businesses.

“We make it a fun party, with a theme,” says Burns, who also does smaller landscape paintings on canvas. “The most recent was ‘The Wicked Martini Art Festival.’ ”

Waterworks owner Dawn Paganelli met her through the art shows and asked, “Can you do a mural on my building?”

The wall that was struck by a car in 2021.

The wall that was struck by a car in 2021.

John Ragan

“I said, ‘Absolutely,’ ” Burns says. “She didn’t need to see any sketches.”

She asked that Burns include images in the mural of the restaurant, the Des Plaines River and the Hofmann Tower, a Lyons landmark built in 1908 “in a style fashioned after European castles.”

Paganelli says of Burns, “I think she’s a beautiful artist, and I’m happy how it all came together.”

Burns says her method was simple: “It’s all brush. No sketches. No pre-sketches.”

Penny Burns’ mural before it was damaged by a car.

Penny Burns’ mural before it was damaged by a car.


Burns, who in high school was a concert cellist, says of her artwork: “I have done this sort of thing since I was a toddler. It’s a part of me. It’s who I am. It’s what I am. It’s like breathing.”

Her creations, she says, are about “bringing beauty and uplifting vibes to people.”

Murals and Mosaics Newsletter
Chicago’s murals and mosaics sidebar

Chicago’s murals & mosaics

Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. Know of a mural or mosaic? Tell us where, and email a photo to We might do a story on it.

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

The Latest
Cubs starter Jameson Taillon was charged with one run through 7 ⅓ innings
The boy was inside a car about 5:30 p.m. in the 8300 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue when someone approached him and fired shots, police said.
Lisa Kudrow leads the bumbling marauders in Apple’s funny follow-up to 1981 film.
Two men, a 46-year-old man from Washington state and a 55-year-old man from Franklin Park, were hospitalized in serious condition following a fire about 3 p.m. Tuesday. Their boat burned.