New Youth Mural to be Unveiled at Erie Neighborhood House
August 24, 2015 | Chicago, IL
Local youth devoted their summer to completing a new mural in the playlot at 1347 W. Erie St.
Youth at Erie Neighborhood House will dedicate a new mural this week, the culmination of a summer project sponsored by Maureen and John Mikulski and their family foundation, Jim’s Bridge to a Brighter Future. A small celebration is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 27, at 1347 W. Erie St. in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.
Created under the direction of local artist Tatiana Martinez, the mural was a youth-driven project from start to finish. Students in the Erie House Youth Options Unlimited and School Age programs were given the opportunity to provide input regarding the overall design and participated in its creation throughout the summer.
Otis Elementary School eighth-grade student Vanessa Hernandez enjoyed taking part in painting the mural. “It’s kind of messy, but it’s fun,” she says. She identifies patience as one of the greatest challenges she faced along the way. “If you mess up, you’ve got to wait until the paint dries before you can paint over it,” she explains.
“It was fun to help out,” adds Adrian Gonzalez, a rising senior at Noble Street College Prep. “It’s cool to know that you’re doing something that a lot of people are participating in together.”
The new mural includes a banner displaying the word for peace in numerous languages, including Spanish, Polish and braille.
The mural features two hands interlocked in a handshake beneath a banner reading peace in a variety of languages. In the background is the likeness of Chicago’s iconic Crown Fountain and green space beneath a blue sky. Bordering the main image are square panels designed by individual students, celebrating the uniqueness of the youth who came together to complete the mural.
For Tatiana, a Chicago native who grew up in Wicker Park and Humboldt Park neighborhoods, the project was a refreshing opportunity to share the experience of creating art with area youth. “It has been a positive experience,” says Martinez, who studied art and graphic design at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, where she graduated in 2010. “I haven’t done a mural since sophomore year in college, and technically I was a student then.”
She commends the youth for their ability to collaborate with one another on the project. “They have learned teamwork, how to communicate with each other, a lot of patience, and paying attention to detail,” she explains. “This is not my mural, this is their mural.”
A Healing Process Continues
Jim’s Bridge to a Brighter Future came to be in the wake of the death of the Mikulskis’ son, James, in 2013. “Jim was such a good and caring person,” says Maureen. “We wanted to do something positive to keep his memory alive in a way that would help others.”
The foundation focuses on supporting projects involving youth in underserved areas. “I grew up in the Englewood neighborhood,” explains Maureen. Her daily commute through the neighborhood in recent years revealed the important role schools and community organizations can play in the lives of area youth. It made perfect sense for the foundation to start by investing in projects that gave youth in that neighborhood a chance at a brighter future.
The Mikulski family later became acquainted with Erie House through Mike McGlinn, who began working as senior director of operations earlier this year. Formerly a colleague of Maureen’s at Northern Trust—a longstanding funding partner and supporter of Erie House youth programs—Mike thought the mission of Jim’s Bridge would be a good match for his new place of employment.
“We’re so grateful to Erie Neighborhood House for involving us in the project from concept to completion,” says Maureen. “It’s been a real treat to participate in the design session and then watch the mural grow from a large white spot on a brick wall to the beautiful artwork it is today.”
Maureen and John Mikulski and their daughter, Kathy, visit the completed the mural for the first time.
Jim’s Bridge to a Brighter Future raises money through participation in road races and fun runs, including the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. “John and I are both runners,” explains Maureen, “and we’ve run in and volunteered at a lot of races.”
The support their foundation has received in the form of participation at races and financial giving has inspired the Mikulski family. “Some people are just so generous, and we are grateful for them,” says Maureen. She notes that these gestures—and seeing the end result of projects Jim’s Bridge to a Brighter Future has been able to support—have provided much comfort as she and her husband journey through their grieving process.
“It’s been very rewarding to see the children involved in these activities,” she says. “I believe our son would be proud.”
For more information on how to get involved with Jim’s Bridge to a Brighter Future, please visit www.jfmmemorial.org. Photos of the completed mural—as well as images documenting its progress from start to finish—can be viewed on the Erie Neighborhood House Facebook page.