When Harold Washington became Chicago?s first black mayor in 1983, his victory against the political establishment set off a political firestorm in the City Council that is commonly referred to as the Council Wars, and Chicago-based designer Mike Perrone has created a limited-edition set of pillows capturing some of the major players of that era. Dubbed ?The Mayors,? the set includes three pillows with screen-printed black-and-white photographs of Washington; his predecessor, Jane Byrne; and his successor, Eugene Sawyer.
The pillows are being sold on Perrone?s website, Oyez Perez, for $48 each. Perrone said he originally had something else in mind for the photos.
?They were going to be hoodies,? he said. ?I was going to line the inside of them with the prints, but after speaking with a couple of buddies, they pushed me toward the pillows, because the photos were great.?
Perrone said he got the idea for the project after reading a column by the Chicago Tribune?s Mary Schimich entitled ?City?s Tough Year Has It Feeling Blue.? In the column, Schimich talks about how the suicide of former Chicago Board of Education president Michael Scott, the city?s failed 2016 Summer Olympics bid, Rod Blagojevich?s indictment, and other major events have made Chicago seem like the ?angry, confused place [Schimich] moved to in 1985 than the exuberant city that has swaggered through the past two decades.? Perrone said he didn?t entirely agree with that assessment.
?It didn?t bother me, but it did make me think a little bit and made me a little nostalgic for the olden days and what these mayors did for our city,? he said. ?So I decided ? lets celebrate these folks.?
Perrone said he was a kid during Council Wars and doesn?t have a lot of memories of that time period, with the exception of seeing Washington during a rally for the Chicago Bears at Daley Plaza. But Perrone said he researched each mayor and came away with more admiration for Washington.
?You look back at and are like, ?God, how did [Washington] do anything with all this push back against him??? he said.
Most of that push back came from a bloc of mostly white aldermen called the Vrdolyak 29, which was named after former aldermen Edward Vrdolyak. The three aldermen whose wards include the Lincoln Square, Northcenter, and Ravenswood area?aldermen Richard Mell (33rd), Patrick O?Connor (40th), and Eugene Schulter (47th)?sided with the Vrdolyak 29. Schulter eventually broke rank from the bloc during the 1987 municipal election and endorsed Washington for reelection, and Schulter in turn supported Washington?s reorganization of the City Council?s committees that gave Schulter the chairmanship of the now defunct Committee on Beautification and Recreation.
?I never even thought of that, but why not? Each of those individuals had different qualities in terms of leadership,? said Schutler. ?I?d probably buy each one of those pillows.?
Perrone said he’s thinking about expanding the line to include Richard J. Daley and David Orr, who briefly served as mayor after Washington died in office. Perrone said he’d offer the Orr pillow for as long as Orr occupied the mayor’s office?one week.