JEFFERSON PARK — Work has ground to a halt on a mural honoring acclaimed Chicago artist Ed Paschke that promised to turn a barren Jefferson Park viaduct into an art gallery.
The Ed Paschke Foundation, in conjunction with Arts Alive 45 and the Rabb Family Foundation, initially picked a design by Chicago artist Tony Passero that showcased Paschke's colorful and up-close paintings of people's faces on both sides of the viaduct at Lawrence and Avondale avenues near the Kennedy Expressway.
But soon after Passero, who is also known as Tony Sparrow, posted pictures of the design on his Facebook page celebrating his selection, representatives of the foundations announced they were rethinking the part of the design and that Passero's announcement was premature.
"The faces would have been fine," said the artist's son, Marc Paschke, who runs the Ed Paschke Foundation with his sister Sharon. "But it would have limited the community's introduction to my father's work."
After Arts Alive 45 President Cyd Smillie painted the first face on the north wall of the viaduct, the Paschke and Rabb foundations decided to redesign the entire mural, which had called for three neon-colored faces that will stare out from each side of the viaduct, framed by the support pillars that separate the sidewalk from the roadway of Lawrence Avenue.
"Cyd did an amazing job, but it was just not what Marc and Sharon [Paschke] envisioned for the mural," said Vesna Stelcer, the president of the board of the Jefferson Park-based Rabb Family Foundation. "It wasn't all we wanted to show."
Selecting images for the mural has been difficult because of the size of Paschke's catalog, as well as the strong feelings the sometimes larger-than-life images evoke, Smillie said.
"Everyone has different favorites, different memories," Smillie said. "We're trying to reconcile all of those things."
There was also some give and take about what images were appropriate for the mural, since Ed Paschke's work can be controversial, said Marc Paschke, who runs the Paschke foundation from San Francisco.
Passero, a member of the Arts Alive 45 board, has worked on a number of murals throughout the far Northwest Side, including the recently completed Positive Babel mural in Old Irving Park neighborhood and a mural of a grinning Cheshire cat near Gunnison and Cicero avenues.
Instead, the works now expected to be represented in the mural will span Ed Paschke's entire career, which began in the 1960s and ended with his death in 2004. They will include "Accordion Man" from 1969, "Guitao" from 1978, "Calypso Rojo" fron 1979, "Marbillize" from 1993, "El Tropica" from 1998 and "Starr Blue" from 2003.
"I hope people will walk or drive by and say 'Hey, that's cool,'" Marc Paschke said, adding that the vivid colors favored by his father will stand out in a dark viaduct. "I hope it makes them interested in looking at more art, whether it is by my dad or not."
Mural designers had hoped it would have been completed in time to greet people traveling to Jefferson Park for the Chicago Fringe Festival, which starts Aug. 29, and Taste of Polonia, which starts Aug. 30.
"It'll be great for the community," Stelcer said. "It will be very powerful."
Now, the challenge will be to complete the mural before the weather turns cold and wet, Smillie said.
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. He was born on the Northwest Side near Central Park and Diversey avenues and raised in the northwest suburbs.
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.