New artwork slated
for Cermak Plaza
By Johnna Kelly, Staff writer
Residents of Berwyn may have their faces immortalized on a mural within the next few months.
The city of Berwyn and Michael Flight, property manager of Cermak Plaza, are negotiating sharing the cost of hiring a Chicago artist to paint a mural on the back of the businesses at the plaza. Patrick Keenan, marketing and communications manager of the Berwyn Development Corp., sought out muralist Jeff Zimmermann for the proposed project.
Berwyn Mayor Michael O'Connor said during the July 5 Committee of the Whole meeting the mural would draw attention to drivers traveling north on Harlem Avenue and residents visiting Morton West High School.
"The idea is to take away an eyesore and provide some color to a blank wall," he said.
The project is expected to cost $30,000, to be split between the city and Flight, representing Concordia Realty of Westchester.
"We like the idea. ... (The partners) have an excellent relationship with the city. I know this project is a priority for Mayor O'Connor, and we look forward to making this project work," Flight said.
Zimmermann said the mural, which will be 100 feet long by 20 feet high, would take about a month to finish and would include familiar faces within the city.
"My murals usually include portraits of people. My favorite is to include people in Berwyn that I find around the neighborhood near the project," he said. Zimmermann has painted a few murals in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood where he featured the likenesses of a local family making tamales. Zimmermann's work also includes murals at the House of Blues in Chicago and a mural for the United Nations in Honduras.
Alderman Ben Brocato, 5th Ward, suggested Zimmermann take a look at the mural located at the Berwyn post office to get a sense of the community's heritage. Alderman Joel Erickson, 8th Ward, said he was concerned about vandalism, but Zimmermann said vandals usually leave art murals alone and many of his murals have never been vandalized.
"Believe it or not, there tends to be a respect in the street for artwork like this," Zimmermann said.
Seventh Ward Alderman Robert Lovero suggested a contract be drafted between the city and the Cermak Plaza management stating that a new owner could not paint over the mural.
Zimmermann is looking to get started as soon as possible on the project. The mural is expected to last 20 years.
"The wall is a great candidate for something aesthetically pleasing that has not been dealt with before. It's a beautiful spot for public artwork. I'm very excited about the project," he said.
Cermak Plaza is best known for its collection of artwork that has been controversial through the years. In the 1980s, former owner and art-lover David Bermant solicited artists to display their work throughout part of the plaza sidewalk and parking lot. The artwork consists of random sculptures, including a helicopter, a mirrored body embracing the world and the infamous "Spindle," which consists of nine gutted automobiles skewered on a large vertical spike.
Flight said the mural would be an addition to the existing artwork of the plaza.
"It will certainly beautify the area. It's going to be something that everyone will be really proud of," he said.
For years, city officials and residents have complained of the garbage and bird waste collected in "Spindle"; however, O'Connor said the artwork was recently cleaned.
Cermak Plaza mural may not get city funds
Private donors being sought for project
By Johnna Kelly, Staff writer
A mural depicting Berwyn residents could still be painted on the backside of Cermak Plaza, despite an informal straw vote against it by the Berwyn City Council. The Berwyn Development Corp. and Michael Flight, property manager of Cermak Plaza, are working together to get a mural painted on the backside of Walgreens by muralist Jeff Zimmermann of Chicago.
The mural, which
will be 100 feet long by 20 feet high, and costs $30,000, is expected to be
half paid for by the property management. The rest will be raised through donations.
The original plan was for the city of Berwyn and the property management of
the plaza to split the cost. However, in an informal poll of the aldermen during
the July 26 Committee of the Whole meeting, the council did not approve the
mural with a 4-to-3 vote. Some of the aldermen expressed concern of traffic
congestion on Harlem Avenue near the mural by gawkers, while others thought
the design did not represent the city.
During the meeting,
Mayor Michael O'Connor, who has been a proponent of cleaning up Cermak Plaza
and the mural proposal, told Patrick Keenan, marketing and communications manager
of the BDC, that if public funding is made available, the BDC does not need
city approval to go forward with the project.
"I feel confident this is still going to happen," Keenan said.
Zimmermann has offered to purchase the material and start the preparation of the wall, without the full payment.
In the past, Zimmermann has painted murals without a commitment for all of the payment. For example, Keenan said representatives work on behalf of the artist to raise the rest of the funding. Many times the funding comes in as people see the finished product.
"He's had great success with that option. It comes with a little bit of risk, but I'm confident we will get the proper funding," Keenan said.
In the past, Zimmermann has painted murals in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood along with murals at the House of Blues in Chicago and one for the United Nations in Honduras.
The proposed mural would be an addition to the present collection of artwork of Cermak Plaza that consists of random sculptures such as a helicopter, a mirrored body embracing the world and the infamous "Spindle," which consists of gutted automobiles skewered on a large vertical spike.
Businesses or residents interested in donating to the mural fund, can do so by calling Keenan at (708) 788-8100.On Oct 2, 2005
© Suburban Life, 2005