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Sauganash Mural to Piece Together Community’s Past and Future

By Heather Cherone | October 29, 2012 1:51pm

SAUGANASH — Plans are in the works to transform the barren walls of a bicycle trail underpass in Sauganash into a mixed-media mosaic that honors the past, present and future of the Northwest Side community.

The mural will feature not only painted images but also photographs, clay figures and glass and ceramic tile using a French art technique known as bricolage to craft a three-dimensional covering for the north and south walls of the underpass at Peterson and Kostner avenues.

“We didn’t want a painted mural,” said Sauganash Mural Project President Paula Fitzgerald, who has lived in Sauganash since 1970. “They look like blight in 15 years. A mosaic mural will last 40 to 50 years.”

That longevity will come at a high price. Although a painted mural on both walls could be completed for about $10,000, the Sauganash mosaic mural will cost more than $70,000 — and organizers are hoping to have all of the money raised by February, so work can begin in the spring, Fitzgerald said.

“I’m extremely optimistic,” Fitzgerald said, adding that the group’s fundraisers are prepared to work hard to meet the deadline. “I’m crossing my fingers.”

The mural is being designed by the Chicago Public Art Group and will be similar to the bricolage mural the group completed in Edgewater on both sides of the Foster Avenue underpass at Lake Shore Drive.

Jon Pounds, the executive director of the Chicago Public Art Group, said the mural is designed to create an engaging surface that represents the community.

“Just like the community is made up of many different people and things, the mural will be as well,” Pounds said. “We want the community to take pride in it for many years.”

The design was crafted after three community meetings, Fitzgerald said.

The north wall, which is 68 feet wide and 48 feet tall, will honor the early Native American settlers of the area, including Chief Sauganash. Other elements on the north wall will depict the area’s lush trees and vibrant wildlife community, since Sauganash is nestled next to the forest preserve.

Clay birds and other animals will be created by students at Queen of All Saints school and Sauganash Elementary School, Fitzgerald said. High school and college students are expected to help paint and craft the mural.

The north wall will also feature a stained glass window from Sauganash Community Church and the fire truck that always makes an appearance in the neighborhood’s Fourth of July parade.

On the south wall, Queen of All Saints Basilica will be seen along with nearby Sauganash Community Park along with depictions of the area’s historic homes, community garden and annual 5K race.

The south wall, which is 85 feet wide and 48 feet tall, will also feature a family tree, which will incorporate photographs transferred on to ceramic tiles that residents can purchase to help fund the mural, Fitzgerald said.

“Our goal is to include everybody,” Fitzgerald said. “We hope the large number of volunteers we have lined up will help keep the cost down.”