WICKER PARK — A homeless man that an artist met in Rome several years ago and deceased house music legend Frankie Knuckles are serving as the inspiration for two new Wicker Park murals.
On Monday, David Allen, a tattoo artist based in Ravenswood, was painting along the wall of Wicker Park's Violet Hour, a craft cocktail lounge at 1520 N. Damen Ave., just south of the intersection of Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues.
Allen was using small brushes and acrylic paint to create a portrait of a sleeping homeless man based on photos he snapped of the man eight years ago when he was traveling in Italy.
When the man awoke, Allen said he tried to give him money but the man refused to take it, saying only "bambino,"— the Italian word for baby — and pointing to Allen's wife's pregnant belly.
The moment of kindness stuck with the 35-year-old artist and served as the inspiration for a portrait he created of the man, which is now on the door to the cocktail lounge.
"People seeing my process in plain view is odd but I like it, painting is a process usually by yourself," Allen said.
Allen's new Violet Hour mural has replaced a piece by J. Mikal Davis aka Hellbent, which went up in mid-April. The Violet Hour changes the murals along its front wall every few months.
Just one block south of the Violet Hour, another new mural was coming together along the side of Hollywood Cleaners on the northwest corner of Milwaukee and Evergreen avenues. Artist Chadwick Anderson was beginning to outline a tribute to the late Frankie Knuckles.
Every July, the wall is whitewashed a few days before the Silver Room Soundsystem Block Party, which is held on Evergreen between Milwaukee and Wicker Park Avenue.
For the last nine years, Phil Luparello, owner of Hollywood Cleaners donates the wall space to the block party.
As of Wednesday, The Silver Room at 1442 N. Milwaukee Ave. has raised $2,970 toward its goal of crowd-funding $5,000 to support its 12th annual party, themed "We the People."
Anderson's mural, which is expected to be complete by Saturday, features a raised fist at the center and pays homage to Knuckles, Anderson said.
Anderson's mural replaces graffiti artist Tyrue "Slang" Jones's 2013 block party mural, which had a constellation-inspired background. Last year's block party theme was "Look up."
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