JEFFERSON PARK — Plans are in the works to transform the barren walls of a viaduct underneath Metra tracks into a mural honoring Chicago artist Ed Paschke, whose colorful and up-close paintings of people's faces drew international acclaim.
Design proposals for the mural, which will span both sides of the viaduct at Lawrence and Avondale avenues near the Kennedy Expressway, are due June 12 to Arts Alive 45, which is partnering with the Rabb Family Foundation and the Ed Paschke Foundation to create the mural.
"It will be more like going to a gallery than seeing a traditional mural," said Cyd Smillie, the president of Arts Alive 45, a nonprofit group that works to create public art through out the 45th Ward.
The mural design should respect the integrity of Paschke's work and "represent his accomplishments as a great Chicago artist," according to the request for proposals.
A mural along the northwest wall of the underpass along Lawrence that features images of dancers and a CTA train car will remain, according to the request for proposals.
The north wall is 120 feet by 12 feet plus 20 feet of a wraparound on the east side. The south wall is 110 feet by 12 feet with 20 feet of a wraparound on the east side. The plans also call for 11 30-foot tall support columns to be painted as well, according to the request for proposals.
"It will definitely make that pathway better," Smillie said, noting that the south wall is chipped and bird excrement covers the sidewalk and walls.
Arts Alive 45, in conjunction with Ald. John Arena's 45th Ward office, has been working to create murals at the entrances of the communities within the ward, including Jefferson Park, Portage Park and Old Irving Park, Smillie said.
The new rules, which haven't been finalized, are designed to make sure public money is spent appropriately and murals are maintained properly, Smillie said.
When the Paschke Foundation, which is based in San Francisco, reached out to Arts Alive 45 looking for a location for the mural, Smillie said the Lawrence Avenue location was an obvious choice.
The mural dedicated to Paschke, who was Polish, will be adjacent to the Copernicus Center, which is dedicating to promoting and preserving Polish culture in Chicago.
Paschke, who was often called Chicago's most important visual artist, rose to prominence in the late 1960s as part of a group of artists known as the Imagists.
In the 1970s, Paschke worked in a studio above the Adelphi Theater in Rogers Park, where he was inspired by the neon glow of the theater's marquee and as well as the films that played there, according to the Paschke Foundation website.
In 1980, Paschke moved to a studio on Howard Street, closer to the campus of Northwestern University, where he taught for 27 years and served as the chairman of the department of art theory and practice.
Some of Paschke's work during the 1980s focused on manipulating the images of iconic figures such as Elvis Presley, Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler.
Paschke's work has been featured in a retrospective at the Art Institute and at the Pompidou Center in Paris.
Born on the Northwest Side near Central Park and Diversey avenues and raised in the northwest suburbs, Paschke died in 2004. His son Marc and daughter Sharon now run the Paschke foundation.
Foundation representatives could not be reached for comment.