Chicago Street Art – Grand / Milwaukee

Bucket list #12 – check. Work with street artists to create something inspiring.

I love street art. Murals, paste-ups, slap-ups, stickers, bombs – I love it all. This week we had a chance to use our skills as retail real estate pros to collaborate with two local artist, JC Rivera (@JcRivera) and Sentrock (@sentrock), and our client, Akara Partners, to give life to a dying wall. And through an amazing effort of teamwork, I am so fortunate to have realized one of my dreams. I’ll never forget this week and my coolest day.

While on my way home from an industry event, I drove past the project site located at 500 N Milwaukee Avenue. For years, this 6-corners urban location has been a magnet for high quality, clever and exceptionally creative street art. With demolition of the existing dilapidated grey buildings, as always, I felt a sense of excitement at what will be and mourning for that which was. Most particularly one of my favorite paste-up locales in the Chicago. However, this evening, as room was being made for Akara’s new mixed-use development, I was presented with a vision.

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After the days work had been completed, an older, possibly even entombed, bubble letter red and white tag on the eastern side of one of the middle buildings was revealed. This relic called to me and I was struck with a grand and wildly implausible idea: we could create an artistic phoenix on the walls of the building before it was razed and turned to ash.

I drove home excitedly and couldn’t wait to send out an email to the Owner. After pitching the idea the Akara’s Senior Vice President – Acquisitions & Development, Stephen Bus, I was green-lighted to reach out to some of my favorite street artists in the city. While I could only offer access, permission and one heck of a canvass, two visionary artists quickly saw the potential and replied to my offer.

Sentrock (@sentrock), a prolific muralist whose symbolic works focus on human struggles, minimization of races, classes and individuals, and ultimately the empowerment and transcendence to rise above and overcome, was the first to respond looking for deets. Following shortly thereafter was JC Rivera (@JcRivera), a visual artist ubiquitously known for his popular The Bear Champ character. The project was growing legs. This thing was actually happening.

Knowing that the two had collaborated previously, made this an opportunity of a lifetime and over the next week the Ownership team and artists stitched together the logistics and details required to take this great idea to reality. We cleared with Ownership. We informed the Alderman. We rented equipment. We delivered lifts. We opened gates. We coordinated with our marketing guru, Carmen Maugeri of Mauge, Inc. We showed up Saturday morning.

The Reflection of a Cities Soul (thanks to wiredforlego)

Below you can see how the transformation came to be.

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What was created … well, I believe that it clearly speaks for itself.

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What makes this so bitter sweet is that it will end. Like most pieces of street art it will disintegrate. The wall will come down and we all hope to be there when it does. Old will make room for new. And it is my belief, that while difficult, we are and will continue to be better off for it.

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