An art collective from Creative Wick, compromised of fine artists, created art on the white fences surrounding the site of a new Peabody housing estate on Fish Island, a north London site.
Michael Worobec, one of the artists, told the Standard that the group felt as if they had been “attacked” after their work was vandalized with the words “nobody knows who you are and nobody gives a damn.”
“We did it for the community, we even left space for others to add their work in. We thought it would get gratified over eventually but it’s the message that’s cruel. It feels as though we have no safe space to do our work as artists. It’s very upsetting.”
This occurrence is just another example of two recurring themes: the nature of street art and the artists behind street art. On the street, it is not surprising that work gets tagged, clipped or buffed. Almost anyone doing street art, whether legal or not, are aware that any of these things can and will happen. It is only a matter of time. This is immediately experienced with the artists in London, as their work gets an immediate facelift, via spray paint.
In recent years, we have also seen the rise of street art; or as I have heard while traveling – the new contemporary. This is where things begin to get gray. Who and what qualifies as street art (a person who solely does their work on the street, or any piece of art/mural that is on the street). Terms such as muralists have come up to differentiate street the type of street artists.
So here is the outcome when these two factors come together.
These conflicts aren’t unusual, we have seen similar occurrences in London, Lower East Side in New York, and Pilsen in Chicago. As areas become gentrified, new artists move in – sometimes to help preserve an area, sometimes to profit off gentrification, either of which limit the available real estate for artists. Clashes between artists become inevitable.
That is the nature of the street. It is wild, uncontrollable and always changing. No matter who you are, whether a writer, muralist, or street artist – you all acknowledge that it is just a matter of time and not for the feint of heart.
Josephine Reyes, Sherwin Sucaldito | Viable Studios
Labor Day Weekend. Considered as the unofficial end of summer by some.
Those refusing to go quietly gather together for what has known as summer’s last stand, to celebrate art, music, and the company of tens of thousands of others in attendance at the North Coast Music Festival.
In its 7th year, the North Coast festival is held annually over Labor Day weekend at Union Park, Chicago. For three days, people have a chance to experience music, art and the creative community in a direct and distinctive manner that uniquely defines this festival. .
Upon our arrival, pass the groups relaxing out on the grass; the fashion forward, and selfie taking crowds, and even those, too caught in the art and music, cutting shapes with their LED shoes. One thing became immediately apparent – there is a strong outpouring of creativity from everyone present. This isn’t your typical outdoor festival. This only became more evident as we made our way into the Silent Disco and Living Gallery; an area combining the art and music – a theme that strongly defines this festival. This year, Ava Grey helped reimagine the area (management, design and build out of artists mural spaces), which became a highly successful area of the event, overwhelming the organizers as they continuously ran out of headphones throughout the weekend.
Ava Grey working late in their studios on North Coast
The Silent Disco, which coexisted with The Living Gallery, allowed attendees to listen to one of two different DJs performing in the area. Festival goers could listen to music through their headphones, while experience some of the artists live painting throughout the weekend. The Living Gallery was a carefully curated environment for attendees to experience art, but to also meet and talk with many of the artists. Artists were all carefully selected by CZR PRZ, from Ava Grey, who chose artists that furthered the proliferation of art in throughout Chicago.
“I wanted to give a [platform] for these artists to do what they do best, and to meet with the community. So many of the artists’ [works] are recognizable but many people don’t know who they are, or that they’re local to the community here.”
Attendees at the Living Gallery at North Coast
Elder Tree, a local collective, helped provide lighting and trussing for the space, coordinating with 8 Cell to facilitate tech requirements for the Silent Disco. Coordinating some of the performers for the Silent Disco, the Silent Disco was looking to compliment the Living Gallery – to become an auditory and visual experience for all those present.
8a5e helped with managing hospitality needs for the area and artists. They said “we’re happy to be helping out on a project that brings the community together where the art is there for all to enjoy.” They are planning to open up a cafe in the Bridgeport Arts Center early next year.
“There are a lot of talented artists in Chicago; and we are hoping for the crowd to connect and discover this huge world of talent that is all right here in Chicago”
Ava Grey took us around to talk with many of the artists, many of whom were live painting for attendees and drawing immense crowds around their area.
The first stop was Oscar Arriola. He is typically seen throughout the many creative events in Chicago, usually with a camera in hand. This time around, he’s on the other end of the camera as we fought the large crowd surrounding his mural to talk with him.
Every couple of months, Stick Up! Chicago is held, to help local artists get to know each other better. A friend helped to come up with the idea of The Stick Up! Chicago, where stickers were very accessible and allowed participants to exercise their artistic talents.
Starting the project on Friday and over the course of the weekend, the wall evolved to being stuck with stickers on every inch – then overlaid with new stickers, written in multiple languages, followed by two Anti-Trump posters and then finally being completely tagged up in the final hours Sunday evening as the festival, and perhaps our summer, came to a close. Follow @oscararriola on Instagram.
Two festival goers listening to the Silent disco – two different DJs can be heard on two different channels on the headsets given out, standing in front of Oscar Arriola’s wall, late Friday night.
Oscar Arriola standing in front of his wall mural as it takes its final form, late Sunday night as the festival comes to a close.
Weaving through the myriad of dancers with headphones on (which at first was a bit odd considering the only music that could be heard if you didn’t have headphones was playing on one of the stages in the festival) we come to another group gathered along another one of Chicago’s favorites – Brain Killer .
Based in Chicago, Brain Killer has worked in the media for about four years, and just like Oscar, Brain Killer was typically used to asking the interview questions, not answer them.
His inspiration comes from Sci-Fi and horror films which is sharply contrasted by the bright, and cheery colors that he uses. When asked what the hardest part was when creating his mural, he replied “Having people come by and chat,” which ironically, we were doing with him that very moment.
Wearing headphones helped him stay focused through the festival weekend with enough time to socialize with admirers, curious festival goers and other fellow artists. He grinned when mentioning the elbow, which was probably the best he has ever done, which then was ironically then covered up as his mural merged with ellooelloo.
“…the more we talked about it, the more it made sense that, yes, that was the perfect spot for our murals to merge.” Follow Brain Killer on Instagram.
Brainkiller posing in front of his mural – and ironically standing in front of the “elbow” a much talked about portion of the mural.
“How do you want me to pose?” Artist Brainkiller at Northcoast.
Sitting nonchalantly off to the side, sketching away is BunnyXLV. He watches as onlookers stop by his piece, make pointing gestures, some gasps and occasional selfie in front of his mastodon. The few who knew him stopped by occasionally to thank him, talk about his art and participation in the festival.
Bunny XLV was inspired to create something large, interactive and fun. He’s been a lifelong artist, recently also painting at Riotfest.
His preferred style combines graffiti and fine art. Working as a graphic designer by day, Bunny XLV received his BFA at School of the Art Institute in Chicago. You can view more of Bunny XLV’s work on Instagram.
Like most of his peers, Bunny preferred to not have his face photographed.
Mural by Denial, who wrapped up Friday and was back home in Detroit Saturday. Denial attracted festival goers inside and outside the Living Gallery (Gallery / Disco area was separated by chain link fence)
Inspiring many selfies and conversation was Zor Zor Zor’s mural. Arriving as soon as the festival opened on Friday, she worked through the evening, finishing Saturday evening, allowing her time to talk to attendees, fellow artists, and enjoy some festival time.
Zor Zor Zor likes to freestyle her artwork, usually using two colors. This piece for the Living Gallery, incorporated four colors, featuring gold and gray. It is simple, yet visually stunning inspiring many conversations in front of the mural, from the artwork itself, to a common questions “is that gold?”
Her favorite part was working with the wood, trying to keep it natural and incorporating natural elements.
Zor Zor Zor at Northcoast, utilizing four colors to captivate her audience.
Taking a short break to tour the festival grounds, grab a bit to eat and drink, we come across several wall murals by Jas Petersen. Though not part of the Living Gallery, there is admiration to any creative profession looking to bring art to the masses.
With a unique style all her own, Jas paints colorful images, focusing on the female form representing the modern era. Painting her whole life in Chicago and having seen the rise of the music and art scene in the city has made Jas not only a veteran of the North Coast Music Festival, but made her believe that one art cannot exist without the other.
She fully believes that “Art is for everyone” and isn’t only intended for galleries and museums, but for the public. View more of Jas’ work.
Jas Peterson working on her mural on the final day of the festival.
Jas believes that “Art is for everyone” and was happy to talk with festival goers throughout the weekend which also made her paint through until Sunday evening.
We step back into the Living Gallery, in time to catch a few more artists. This is the first time we met Zeye although we have seen Zeye’s artwork before and was excited to talk with her about her piece. Onlookers sat on giant pillows watching Zeye paint throughout the weekend (donated from Chicago Loop Alliance ACTIVATE events).
Zeye has been painting since she was 14 years old. She’s incorporated letters and characters into her work. She enjoys painting characters and was inspired by various religious backgrounds and cultures. Her artwork includes a lot of pop culture references such as Wolverine and Akira. Zeye was sure what to expect for the Living Gallery and was surprised, but happy to collaborate with another artist for the festival.
Zeye posing in front of her mural. Dred was unavailable for a photo for his side of the mural at the time.
Alongside Zeye, is the artist Dred, painting Bubblegum Jesus. Painting throughout the weekend, up until Sunday night, we caught Dred while he was on break to have a quick bite to eat before getting back to his piece.
Dred gets his inspiration from a blend of people, the internet, and pop culture. Pop culture influences his work and ties in with his fellow collaborator Zeye who worked on the left side of the mural.
Dred is heavily Inspired by street artists Mobe 2 and Miss Van. When asked how he got the inspiration to paint his piece for the festival, he said that he arrived with a sketchbook and got ideas. Though Dred has attended several street art and graff events, this is his first time going to a music festival.
Bubblegum Jesus by Dred, late Sunday night.
As the name suggests, the Living Gallery is a reflection of the art and how we choose to interpret, experience and perceive it. Art can be static, or dynamic and ever-changing – both of which were seen throughout the weekend.
Like nature, it’s a balanced ecosystem, where the music inspires the visual artists, who in turn inspire a curious onlooker. They smile, laugh, take a selfie, perhaps comment to a friend of how this reminds them of something. Sometimes they sit and look, other times they dance.
A curious musician watches a curious individual, who dances with a mural and cares not of the world around her. He is inspired by the newfound muse, takes out a notebook and writes….. A new song is being born. With it, the passions and dreams passed on from one individual to the next, and now being returned as a song, to inspire the next works of art, which will make someone new smile, who then becomes an unknowing muse for someone else.
It begins, it ends, and so does the Northcoast weekend. Special thanks to Ava Grey and Elder Tree. View our online gallery which showcases additionally photos from the festival. This article originally appears on Viable Studios
Good Night Chicago. Thank you for a magical weekend.
About the author(s)
Josephine Reyes is an independent writer. Sherwin Sucaldito provided additional content, commentary, information, and photography in the article and manages operations for the Studio.