Artist Continues His Work on Wall
By Joseph Sjostrom
Tribune staff reporter
Like any good artist, Jeff Zimmermann will discuss the color, the form, the images of his work. But he leaves the hard part--what does this mean?--to the viewer. That means occupants of cars traveling northbound on Harlem Avenue in Berwyn face the challenge of figuring out what's with a 3,000-square-foot mural taking shape on the back wall of a Walgreens store.
Working 10 feet
off the pavement on a scaffold, Zimmermann applies pictures of a cowboy astride
a bucking bull, a collection of cherries, a slice of pie on a plate, a smiling
Jimminy Cricket and what might or might not be a splashing wave of water and
ice cubes. When he's finished with the bull and rider, Zimmermann will shift
the scaffold to the right to begin an image of a janitor flying. And when that's
done, he'll still have at least half of the wall for more products of his imagination.
Though vague about the mural's meaning, Zimmermann consents to reveal why he's
painting it: Somebody hired him. It was the Berwyn Development Corp., a non-profit
agency that manages economic development projects and tax increment financing
districts in the city.
the project began with a call from Patrick Keenan, the agency's marketing and
communications manager who had seen Zimmermann's work, including paintings on
canvas and several outdoor murals, in the Pilsen area. "He called and said,
`Listen, we're trying to make Berwyn more hip, and there's this big brick wall
at the back of a shopping center that you can see for blocks away,' and do I
want to come out and paint a mural on it," Zimmermann said. He agreed to
take the job on condition that he be allowed total artistic freedom. The development
corporation and the shopping center management agreed as long as he showed them
the images he planned to paint before he actually put them on the wall.
Painting of the
mural began in August and is projected to be finished by the end of October,
weather permitting, Zimmermann said. The mural is on a south-facing brick wall
of the Walgreens drugstore in the southwest corner of the Cermak Plaza shopping
center at Cermak Road and Harlem Avenue. The center, managed by Concordia Realty
Management Inc., is already famous for its other outdoor art objects, including
"The Spindle," a stack of eight cars with a metal pole speared through
is paying half the cost, and the Berwyn Development Corp. is seeking sponsors
to finance the rest. Zimmermann said his fee is $30,000 plus supplies, which
includes about 45 gallons of white primer paint and at least 40 gallons of acrylic
Keenan said he
couldn't precisely remember saying that he wants to make Berwyn "hip"
though he conceded on reflection that a bit of hipness wouldn't hurt. "I
just think the community would benefit from a public art project, something
everybody can take ownership of and appreciate," Keenan said. "I'm
familiar with some of his work in the Chicago area and I think a large-scale
mural is something that people will be wowed by."
The mural also
will include a glass that's "half empty or half full of water," and
faces of people who stopped to look at the work in progress and were photographed
"There's a narrative going on here; that's the deal," Zimmermann said. "There's a narrative for the viewer to figure out. I'm asking the viewer to participate."
Copyright, The Chicago Tribune, '05
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