THE LOOP — One of the Loop's most recognizable murals is being replaced by one of Chicago's best-known bluesmen.
A Brazilian artist and his assistants are hard at work painting a 100-foot-tall picture of Muddy Waters at State and Washington streets. Once finished, the 10-story mural will cover up another site familiar to those who live and work Downtown: the big, yellow "Go Do Good" painting.
"To us, this is quintessential Chicago, and State Street is quintessential Chicago," said Anne Voshel, an owner of the 19-story tower at 17 N. State St. "We got such an icon who's bringing so much energy to the street."
The painting is perhaps the highest-profile addition to the Wabash Arts Corridor, a Columbia College Chicago campaign beautifying blank walls Downtown. The Muddy Waters painting is the first such mural this far north in the Loop, and unlike its campaign predecessors south of Congress Parkway, is located at a busy Loop corner where thousands of people commute to jobs in their staid office buildings.
Waters was a Mississippi sharecropper who moved here and perfected the electric blues of Chicago during the 1940s and '50s. His songs such as "Rollin' Stone" and "Mannish Boy" are viewed as the foundational link between the acoustic Delta blues and rock 'n' roll.
"We can’t even imagine music today without Muddy’s contributions coming out of the Chicago blues scene," said Mark Kelly, who is leading the arts campaign for Columbia College Chicago. "He’s a cultural hero and maybe someone who should be better honored and remembered, and what an incredible opportunity to put Muddy Waters up front and center in the middle of Chicago."
The artist is Eduardo Kobra, who's known for colorful portraits of famous figures, including Abraham Lincoln and Bob Marley. His depiction of the iconic photograph of a World War II soldier kissing a nurse in Times Square can be seen from the High Line elevated park in New York.
Kelly hopes the Muddy Waters painting could be just as well-known here.
Voshel said Kobra's crew began painting last week and should be done next week. The building is paying for the painters' rigging and paint, while Columbia College is paying for the artists' stay in Chicago. Kelly said the campaign, which now has nearly 40 paintings, has raised $120,000 privately.
Designed by Kay Rosen, the "Go Do Good" mural debuted in 2011 on the side of the Loop tower where the Waters painting is going. At the time, it was part of a campaign asking Chicagoans to do 100,000 good deeds that summer.
The Waters painting will be up "as long as it looks good," or until it's covered up by a new high-rise, Voshel said. A New York developer paid $23 million for the low-rise retail building next door now home to a Gap store in 2011.
A Chicago-based executive of that developer, Georgetown Co., did not return a message.
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