Visual art nonprofit launches Evanston Mural Arts Program


David Lee/The Daily Northwestern

Community members gather at Evanston Mural Arts Program’s launch event. Lea Pinsky, one of the overseers of the initiative, said two murals are already completed and three are in progress.

Gabby Birenbaum, Reporter

Some overlooked spaces in Evanston will soon get a makeover, trading beige walls for colorful compositions as artists paint abstract murals for a local art initiative.

Art Encounter, a visual art outreach nonprofit, launched its newest initiative — the Evanston Mural Arts Program — at the Hyatt House hotel on Thursday. Dustin Harris and Lea Pinsky, a married couple who oversee EMAP, have spent the past year organizing and installing murals around the city.

As a result of their work, two murals stand at the corners of Elmwood Street and Davis Street, and Dempster Street and Sherman Avenue, Pinsky said at the event. With the help of the Evanston Arts Council, another mural at Central Street and Green Bay Road should be completed by the end of the month, she said, with two additional projects in progress.

The couple was born and raised in Evanston, where they discovered their passion for art, Pinsky said. She said she was introduced to large-scale art installations while working on set pieces for her high school theater productions. Harris, meanwhile, experimented with graffiti and street art at Columbia College Chicago, where he developed an interest in murals, Pinsky said.

The couple further cultivated their mural management skills at the Mile of Murals, a public art initiative that began in 2007 in Rogers Park, Harris said.

“When we did move back to Evanston from Chicago in 2012, we had been working on murals,” Pinsky said. “We saw all these walls and we thought, ‘Wow, we really need to do something in Evanston.’ So we’re really excited.”

Chicago-based artist Ruben Aguirre painted the mural located at Dempster and Sherman as part of a joint project with the Main-Dempster Mile, a “special service area” that connects the Main commercial district and the Dempster business district. Aguirre told The Daily he found EMAP easy to work with.

Aguirre said Pinsky and Harris took care of the power washing and priming, and supported him in his work. He said he hopes his abstract piece inspires passersby to pause and consider the implications of creating art in previously unused public spaces.

“My hope is that people will pay attention to the space where (the mural) is, and think about why it’s there,” Aguirre said. “Maybe (they’ll) start to imagine art or just consider discarded spaces more and just use their imagination more, and let those ideas float around a little bit.”

In the future, Pinsky said she hopes to involve the community in more projects. She is currently painting a mural with Old Orchard Junior High School for the Youth & Opportunity United building in Evanston.

She said she enjoys working with students and hopes to match artists with youth communities to create “outreach murals.”

Joanna Pinsky, Lea Pinsky’s mother and Art Encounter’s founder, described the nonprofit’s mission as bringing art to people of all ages and backgrounds.

“This project is wonderful because we believe that art is for all people,” she said. “Public art is a way of giving everybody an opportunity to really enjoy and participate in art.”

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