Wabash Arts Corridor—much better than a hole in your eye

You may recall from my last post that when HOB and I were in the marvelous Rookery building, he spied a glasses shop. Soon after he made an appointment with an optometrist there, because, as he told me “I think I have a hole in my eye”. And damn it if he didn’t—for real—have a hole in his eye, which required surgery. So anyway I was waiting for his surgery to be over and the doctor came out and told me everything went well but the damage was a bit more than expected so he had to put a big gas bubble in there to help the hole heal up and that HOB’s eye should be fine but he shouldn’t fly for a least two months.

Yeah…so we had to refund our tickets and cancel our hotels for our upcoming trip to Italy. The good news is Chicago is lovely this time of year. And instead of a flurry of posts on Mantegna frescos, I’m offering you some Chicago-style frescos, found in the Wabash Avenue Arts Corridor.

Hey city planners, if you ask me (no, really, you should ask me) how to make a ho-hum neighborhood turn sensational—I would tell you to get busy hiring street artists to cover it with murals.

The Wabash Arts Corridor is just south of the Loop, roughly surrounding Columbia College. You might have guessed a lot of the murals are found on Wabash, but you’ll need to poke around in alleys and behind buildings to see it all.

I took this photo a year ago, when this mural commemorating women’s suffrage by Diosa (Jasmina Cazacu) was in progress. Also missing is Moose Bubblegum Bubble, by Jacob Watts, which was temporarily removed for restoration.

And here they are in their current state.

There are a lot of inherently boring surfaces that have become intriguing with the addition of murals, most notably parking garages. Here’s Drowning City by Rueben Aguirre.

I loooooooooooove this parking garage mural by Kashink.

Another parking garage mural, by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, is made from wheat paste images and is called Stop Telling Women to Smile. (Confidential to young women: when you’re over 50, dudes never ask you to smile. Something to look forward to.)

There are quite a few bright, abstract and vaguely corporate murals that I didn’t think were particularly interesting on their own, but were exciting when seen in the larger cityscape. This is High Tide, by Amuse 126.

Mad C’s 1000 Wall has that a-rich-people’s-condo-board-picked-me vibe.

Hello Kirsten’s Listen to Learn is rescued from faux-boho decorativeness by proximity to a teal fire escape.

Ah, a nice squishy palette cleanser in the form of Heidi Unkefer’s Slime Mountain.

Peak into an alley and find Zor Zor Zor’s Goralu, Czy Ci Nie Zal, which depicts a couple in traditional southern Polish dance costumes.

Imagine We Could Tolerate Each Others Differences by Hera, an artist from Germany.

Moroccan artist Youness Amriss painted this beauty.

Columbia College hired one of their alumni, Don’t Fret, to paint a mural near the campus. He made a portrait of himself pulling his face off his graduation-gowned body to reveal a piggy bank with his student loan debt blowing away in the famous Chicago wind. (I’ll pause while you write “subversive” in your notebooks, Columbia students.)

The murals I like best are in dialogue with vintage painted signs, like ASVP’s Make Your Own Luck.

These vintage signs are known as ghost signs. Nerdy folks like me are always going around documenting them.

Dutch artist, Collin van der Sluijs, goes a step farther in his mural From Bloom to Doom. Controversially, he’s selectively enhanced the building’s heritage signs, making them part of his own artwork.

Perhaps a lesser artist should not have the privilege to alter a ghost sign, but look what van der Sluijs has captured here in his painting of two of Illinois’ endangered birds surrounded by native flowers: the ephemeral beauty of both nature and art.


  1. I vote for the motion to delete blank walls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have an election coming up November 8—I’ll talk to some people to make sure it is on the ballot.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the ghost signs. there are Insta accounts dedicated to these beauties, and I follow most of them

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are tempting me to start using Instagram, which I’ve avoided so far. Glad to hear there are folks worldwide who love the ghost signs too.


  3. Nemorino · · Reply

    I’m glad to see that Hera (real name Jasmin Siddiqui) is represented on a big wall in Chicago. She grew up here in Frankfurt (I met her once at an exposition) and is well known as half of the artistic duo Herakut.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The color of the Chicago common bricks makes a great background for thec halky skin tone in her work. Doe she paint on bricks in Frankfurt too, or other types of surfaces?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She paints on all kinds of surfaces, often concrete, as those are the ones that direly need sprucing up. Offhand I can’t recall any on bricks.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Speedy recovery to HOB! A hole in an eye doesn’t sound nice at all. Thanks for the murals, they really make a city interesting in my opinion. I loved seeing old mosaics and bas-reliefs in small cities in Central Asia, places like Osh, Kyrgyzstan or Kyzyl-Orda, Kazakhstan. They often were very futuristic (planes, rockets flying to distant planets) which was quite a change from what was around them. There even was Misha, the blood-thirsty teddy bear that was the mascot of Moscow 1980.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks.—he had to be face down for 45 minutes an hour for over a week (in case you’re wondering, there’s a special chair for that, which comes with a pamphlet with pictures I probably shouldn’t have laughed at.).

      Holy Moley, that teddy is nightmarish! Please tell me you blogged about it? https://www.kathmanduandbeyond.com/1980-olympic-misha-mosaic/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well it’s in the second photo of this post of mine, in all its terrifying glory. Nothing will convince me that this thing DOESN’T get out at night to suck the blood out of goats. A Kyrgyz chupacabra if you will. https://awtytravels.com/?p=6462

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi WOB. Thanks for documenting one of the best parts of my old neighborhood. I miss it and the street art here is amazing too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chicago misses you too, Lee, though you’re sure living in a gorgeous place now. Glad to hear there’s great street art there too.


  6. I’m really sorry for the reason for cancelling your trip to Italy and hope your good man makes a full recovery.
    These murals were super…I just wish the muni of our capital city would learn from this and stop promoting the coarse and vulgar stuff that passes for a mural style here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kindness, Helen! HOB’s eyesight is getting better, but with that gas bubble he still feels like his eye is under water.

      I recall you saying there a plenty of faux naïve murals about where you live—a shame!

      Liked by 1 person

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