During Circus in the Park festivities last fall, Mayor Emanuel praised the outdoor mosaic mural being affixed to the Chase Park Fieldhouse, 4701 N. Ashland Ave. Shortly after, work was halted on the project and in January the Park District issued an order to tear down the partially-completed mural. Within days, shards of tile littered the ground and protective fencing was erected to obscure the dismantled artwork.
Residents were left scratching their heads. So was Anna Soltys, director of Greenstar Movement, which, in partnership with After School Matters, was overseeing the mural’s design and installation by students.
“I’m still a little confused about what’s happening. I’m not exactly sure who stopped the project and why,” she says. “The kids were very upset.”
The action was all the more curious given Greenstar’s track record with the city: The nonprofit’s handiwork can be seen at Uplift High School, the People’s Music School and Prescott Elementary, among others. “This has never happened to us before,” Soltys says.
The explanation from the Park District: “My understanding is, they didn’t go through the Park Enhancement Committee,” says Zvezdana Kubat, Park District spokesperson. “There’s a certain way of doing things and a need to follow protocol.”
Though Soltys says Greenstar submitted information to support their installation technique–”These are materials that are weather resistant and won’t harm the building”–according to Kubat, each Park District structure is unique, and methods employed at one facility might not be appropriate for another. “We want these [murals] to last,” says Kubat.
Using city dollars to remove what was a fully-funded project still strikes some as unusual. “First we were told it had been pushed through too quickly–the Enhancement Committee suggested there was some skipped step,” says Margaret O’Conor, Chase Park Advisory Council. “Then instead of it being a process issue, it became an application issue. It’s a shame we couldn’t get them to take a second look before tearing it down. I do not understand whatsoever their need to come in so quickly, with no notice or public meeting.”
Though not overseeing the mural, the Advisory Council had thrown its full support behind the artwork. “We looked forward to having a beautiful external installation,” says O’Conor. “We thought this would be very cool, especially for kids. It would be an immense psychological boost to our community.”
At this point, it’s of little consequence where or how the project went awry. As of press time, Katie Fearon-Peon, Park District supervisor at Chase Park, had yet to respond to CSJ‘s requests for comment. After School Matters simply issued this statement, noting its track history with the Park District and expressing its hopes to complete the project.
Though O’Conor communicated her skepticism that the mural was salvageable, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) is working with the various parties involved to find a solution, which could include applying the mosaic tiles to panels that would be attached to the fieldhouse. “My office is going to work to identify funding,” he says.
The irony in all this is that the design of the mural, which has since be torn apart, featured an older woman knitting, symbolizing the weaving of a community together.