Artists and businesses work together for a self-guided virtual art tour in Edgewater


Photo courtesy of Ryan Tova Katz

“Ethiopian Diamond,” a window painting Ryan Tova Katz made for the Ethiopian Diamond restaurant in Edgewater as part of an outdoor art exhibit.

Jack Austin, Assistant A&E Editor

On Thursday, organizers and artists involved in Edgewater’s first art walk converged for a media event that would kickoff the month-long art presentation. Edgewater’s Chamber of Commerce, local art organization Urban Art Restart and other local businesses commissioned Chicago artists to create over 100 pieces in storefront windows, including existing murals and mosaics from the Chicago Mosaic School.

The art collection, “Reflections: an Edgewater Art Experience,” runs from September 28 to October 31.

Vy Duong, a former Daily contributor and Medill senior, helped organize the event and described it as a self-guided tour. Each piece of art has a QR code that gives more information about the art and artist. Visitors can also use the codes to discover a large virtual map showing where all of the work is being displayed.

Due to the pandemic, many artists do not have spaces to display their work, Duong said. While the art walk is a response to this issue, she hopes that the event will turn into a recurring one or a year long project.

One of the artists, Ryan Tova Katz, painted three different business windows, and made pieces with children from all races in “magical scenarios.” The work she most recently finished portrays two kids painting a dripping rainbow.

“I just wanted to spread the message of love and colorful life and joy and undeniably happy images because everyone is just suffering in their own ways right now,” Tova Katz said.

In comparison to other areas of the city she worked in, the Edgewater community was much more receptive to Tova Katz’s artwork, often stopping by to thank her and tell her the mural was beautiful, she said.

Barrett Keithley, a local artist, painted two boards and three window pieces. Keithley said his work shows the dichotomy of good and evil.

“My art is always about overcoming something, being strong, being positive, being yourself, understanding yourself, (and) feeling yourself,” Keithley said. “The message is self-awareness.”

Keithley’s art also provides political commentary from the perspective of a Black man. One of his pieces for “Reflections” says “race to freedom,” with an image of a person running.

“This is a country that is built on (a) constitution that says all men are equal. But, (the country) is obviously not (equal),” Keithley said. “Therefore for us to live (up to) our word as a country we need to do more. And that more is happening now. Race to freedom. We are humans. We are running together.”

Artists worked closely with businesses to create art that reflected the beliefs and mission of the business. Additionally, the organizers tried to spotlight underrepresented artists in Chicago and partner with artists who focus on current events and the current political climate, Duong said.

John Sorci and Jenna Hayes are the co-founders of Urban Art Restart, an organization dedicated to supporting local artists and creating murals of hope and solidarity, according to their website. As one of the main organizers of “Reflections,” the organization helped curate and organize with artists.

Sorci said that artists tackled themes of the election, political climate, protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The title, “Reflections,” was intentional, and the exhibit is meant to reflect on today’s unique socio-political climate.

“With all the crazy stuff going on, it’s nice to have some protest in a peaceful way,” Hayes said.

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Twitter: @JackAustin10

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