OLD TOWN — Walter Payton College Prep students joined professional artists Friday morning to paint a colorful mural on the side of the historic Noble Horse building, which is expected to come down in the coming months to make way for a mixed-use development.
"I think it's amazing," said Jay Williams, who commutes to Walter Payton College Prep, 1034 N. Wells St., from Bronzeville.
"It's nice we get to make the environment look better. You should make a place better than when you left it. We're different cultures and different groups coming together to make something beautiful."
Students in Jason Chau's advisory class painting the mural. [All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]
Williams was among 21 students in Jason Chau's freshman advisory class who created the mural at Schiller and Sedgwick streets as a community service project for Sweetness Day. The selective-enrollment school named March 4 Sweetness Day after the school's namesake and former Bears player, Walter Payton, who was known as "Sweetness." His wife, Connie Payton, came out Friday to support the mural.
The project was a collaboration with local nonprofit Art on Sedgwick, which runs an art center just steps away from the mural.
Muralist Joseph Perez, 29, who goes by Sentrock, incorporated ideas from the students into the final design, which depicts a young man wearing a bird mask with the message "We All Shine." Perez's murals are all over the city, from his neighborhood of Little Village to Logan Square.
The Old Town mural is meant to convey freedom, uniqueness, diversity and inclusiveness — themes the students feel passionate about, according to Charlie Branda, founder of Art on Sedgwick.
Student Brendan Moran, who lives in Edgewater, said he wasn't sure what to expect when Chau first introduced the project in class. But after seeing it on the building, he said he's sure "people will walk by and think of it nicely."
It was also an opportunity for students to be creative outside of the classroom, which is what appealed to student Mendy Kong, who lives in Bridgeport.
"It gave us the opportunity to spray paint, which you can't do in school," said Kong, who does some art in her free time.
For Sweetness Day, advisory classes travel all over the city to do community service projects. In his five years as a teacher at Walter Payton, Chau this was the first time he was able to do a project so close to the school, which he said is special for kids who live in the area.
About 21 students in total participated in the project.
"We see this gentrification happening all around Payton. It's great that we're doing something for the people [here] because we take students from this neighborhood as well," he said.
"They're learning about giving back to the community."
The mural won't be permanent because the building is expected to be torn down to make way for a 250-unit development. But Perez said it makes the art project more special because it exists "in the moment."
Art on Sedgwick plans to partner with more local schools in the coming weeks.
The organization's third annual Faces & Places neighborhood art exhibition kicks off April 29. Students from Catherine Cook School, Franklin Fine Arts Center, Immaculate Conception St. Joseph and Manierre Elementary School will come together for the exhibit, which is open to the public.
The unfinished mural after the first round of painting.
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