CHATHAM — Residents and 79th Street business patrons can see Chance the Rapper and hip hop artist Common every day.
Unfortunately, they won’t be hearing much singing — well, actually none at all.
It’s the faces of the performers that people can see: artist Chris Devin has plastered them on the side of a three-story building located on the northeast corner of 79th St. and Evans.
Eiran Feldman of First InSite Realty owns the building-turned-makeshift canvas. He has worked with Devin before and said he wanted to bring the artist back to help beautify the 79th Street corridor. This is all a part of his “Positive Imaging Campaign” that kicked off last April. The legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson’s face was the first to grace the neighborhood.
Local Chatham artist Yorli Huff is showing off her creative side as well, with colorful, vibrant paintings of black women superheroes.
An image of the “You are Beautiful” sign designed by Matthew Hoffman is also on display.
This decision was part of an effort by Feldman, Chatham DevCorp and the community.
The group agreed that Common and Chance the Rapper are positive role models. “They are two singers from the community who are not sending a message of violence and chasing after money,” Feldman said. “They have a positive message.”
Area residents seem to appreciate the artwork.
“It looks good, I like it,” said Chatham resident Leroy Tyree.
Mahogonie D. Day said the art campaign is positive and that she likes it.
Day, who works around the corner from the property at Leak & Sons Funeral Home, 838 S. Cottage Grove Ave., said crime has gotten worse over the last few years, causing the once flourishing neighborhood to decline.
“It’s sad because it was a thriving community,” she said. “There used to be a lot of black-owned businesses, but hardly any left now. People are scared.”
Appearances matter, Feldman said, which is why he’s excited about bringing some color to the dull brown building.
“The appearance of the properties is more damaging than what’s going on in them, so people living on the block, people on a main street like 79th Street, they just see blight,” he said. “It discourages them from walking up and down the street and shopping.”
Paul Metaxas, who rents space from Feldman for his carry-out pizza business, has been in the community for 13 years and he’s not leaving. It takes a special understanding of the neighborhood's history and the culture of its people to want to keep a business going there, he said.
The artwork "uplifts the community,” Metaxas said.
Another way people can help improve the neighborhood is by purchasing some of the area's vacant and foreclosed homes, said Thomas Moes, Chatham's Micro Market Recovery Program Outreach Coordinator.
There is $15,000 available in forgivable loans administered by Neighborhood Housing Services. The funding is available for first-time buyers of buildings with one to four units.
People can use the funding to buy homes within the 13 target areas outlined by the City of Chicago Micro Market Recovery Program in Chatham, which include homes being sold on the Multiple Listing Service. Income guidelines might apply. Click here for more information.
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