By Dylan Health of The Urban Coaster
July 13, 2009 – With a clear blue sky and comfortable summer conditions on a recent Monday, the Lake Shore Drive overpass at Foster Avenue was full of the sound of teenagers breaking glass. On the surface it might sound like a place people would avoid, but this particular day marked the start of a six-week art project that hopes to change such stereotypes.
Tracy Van Duinen and Todd Osborne are working with local students to create a mural made of broken tile and mirror that depicts the history of Native American culture. From the beginning, Van Duinen said, the Native American community has been working with them on the design.
For most, the image of Native Americans is stuck in the historical wild-west days, Van Duinen said. “From the beginning, they didn’t want this to be [stereotypical] Indian-ness,” he added.
Instead the mural will combine history with the modern day, all within the “passage of a day,” Osborne said. The sunrise shows the historical beginnings of the culture, which turns into the present and ends with the moon.
After School Matters (ASM) has partnered with the Uptown-based youth group Alternatives, the 48th Ward and the Chicago Public Art Group (CPAG) to teach local teenagers the art of “Bricolage.” In addition to learning a new trade, the kids working on the project will be paid for their time by ASM.
This is the third such project that Van Duinen has worked on with area students. The first was the facade of the Alternatives building at Lawrence Ave. and Sheridan Rd. They also worked on the Bryn Mawr overpass.
Besides the Bricolage style, the artists also teach the students a bit of history and creativity. At a group meeting before they started working on the wall, Osborne explained some of Chicago’s Native American past. They also handed out sketchbooks and pencils to track the students’ progress.
Dushawn Darling, like some of the other students there, started out knowing nothing about art. But after he worked on the Bryn Mawr mural, he said he “got into art” and wanted to work with them again. Darling said he will take an art class next spring.
Jamal Toney, another student who started at the Bryn Mawr mural, said he had nothing to do in the summer and “just wanted to stay out of trouble.” He liked the work so he decided to come back.
Part of this project is the interaction between the students and the community, Van Duinen said. There will be days that people can come and be taught by the students themselves. There will also be an unveiling at the end of the six-week period.
The overall idea of the project, Van Duinen said, was to bring people together. Van Duinen is glad to see the diverse group of students working together and getting to know each other. “I don’t think there is any better way to get to know them other than art,” he said.