OLD TOWN — The Bear Champ artist is lending his talents to the Chicago Bears' mural project. In fact, he appears to have inspired it.
Street artist JC Rivera was blocking out the form of a bear holding a ball for a field goal Wednesday on the wall of the NewCity Shopping Center at 1457 N. Halsted St. as he prepared to join the project, which is seeing four Bears-themed murals go up in Chicago neighborhoods.
Sick Fisher put one on the wall of the Wild Hare reggae club at 2610 N. Halsted last week, joined by another in Lincoln Square by Amuse 126 on the wall of Roots Pizza, 2200 W. Lawrence Ave.
Rivera got in on the action this week, joined by another executed by Don't Fret in the South Loop at 2113 S. State St., according to the Bears.
But it's Rivera who appears to have inspired it all with his Bear Champ street murals featuring a bear in boxing gloves.
"They asked for me," Rivera said Wednesday during a break in painting his mural.
Did Bear Champ provide the Bears with the germ of their inspiration for the mural project?
"It sorta seems like," Rivera said.
There are no boxing gloves on his Bears mural, however. Instead, Rivera said, he was blocking out a more fierce-looking bear holding a football for a field goal, to be dressed in sweatbands, cleats, eyeblack and a Bears jersey.
The Bears have commissioned the murals as interactive art fans can use as background for selfies.
But Bear Champ made Rivera a natural for the project. It's his signature figure, one he lent to a mural project at the Nettelhorst School in Lakeview a few years ago.
"When I was young, I wanted to be a boxer," Rivera said. "That was the main idea when I created the bear."
Over the years, however, he adapted it to a message of endurance, sort of "rolling with the punches," Rivera said before returning to work.
Hold that thought, as the Bears might need to be reminded to roll with the punches after they lost their opening game last weekend and suffered some major injuries in what appears to be a rebuilding year.
Rivera, who said he's a fan of the team, added that he'd be interested in doing more murals if the Bears are.
Rivera said he expected to finish his Bears mural Thursday, weather permitting. Even with Florida hundreds of miles away, he was rolling with the punches from Hurricane Irma as well, which first delayed delivery of his paints for the project earlier this week, then threatened rain as the last remnants of the storm reached Chicago Wednesday afternoon.