UPTOWN — A longtime Uptown resident and artist responsible for works of art across the community is engaging the neighborhood for a new public art project that would be completed this summer and displayed prominently in the Argyle Street area.
Ginny Sykes is looking for ideas about images reflective of the Asian cultures of Argyle Street, as well as images that reflect the neighborhood Uptown is — and where it's going, she said.
The mural would be installed on a wall at the northeast corner of Argyle and Broadway streets that belongs to a convenience store owner who gave the economic development organization Uptown United permission to use it.
The first of three community meetings to gather ideas for the mural was held last week at Hon Ke Restaurant. Sykes said possibly partnering with William C. Goudy Elementary School to help produce the mural, and incorporating a lotus flower — metaphorically or literally — were some of the major ideas that arose.
She said there was a feeling at the meeting that the mural should not only reflect neighbors' perceptions about the neighborhood as it is now, "but also the idea of the future — whatever that might look like."
"Any time you put a piece of artwork up it tells the story of that particular moment, but how can it also speak to new interpretations?" she said. "I think the arts are a way to dialog around those things and hope that the mural can in some way speak to that."
Sykes, 56, has lived in Uptown for 25 years — and spent much of that time making the area a more artful place. Her resume includes the "Inspiration" wall mural at Inspiration Cafe, the mosaic benches for the playground at Margate Park and the sculpture plaza in the Sunnyside Mall, which was a collaboration with another artist and local teenagers.
She has a penchant for collaborative public art projects, including the hundreds of square feet worth of mosaic and handmade ceramic tile that make up various murals on the face of Joseph Stockton Elementary School.
Sykes said Uptown is at an "interesting point" in its history, with growing talk of making it an arts and entertainment district.
"We're just at this interesting point waiting to see what direction the community is going to go in and how much is going to be grassroots-from-the-ground-up sort of things and how many things will happen with outside people coming in," Sykes said.
Uptown United President Alyssa-Berman Cutler initiated the project and brought on Sykes in recent months after her name rose to the top of discussions with board members about potential muralists.
Berman-Cutler said Sykes’ work “really does respect the communities” it comes from and doesn’t feel like some massive effort conceived by an artist and then “thrown at the community.” Yet Sykes adds "a layer of sophistication" that conveys “a fine-arts feel," Berman-Cutler said.
A $10,000 grant from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago and PNC Bank will finance the project. The mural is being designed in such a way that it can be taken down and preserved in the event that a new owner takes over the building and wants it removed.
Sykes said she wants to do an "outdoor table day" on Saturday, and hit the streets to hand out information about the project and get feedback from the community about what it should include.