A big, brown moose lives at the corner of Congress and South Wabash. It’s probably the only one in the city, at least the only one that chews bubblegum. The mural, “Moose Bubblegum Bubble,” is by Jacob Watts, and if you’ve taken the Orange Line into the city I’m sure you’ve seen it.
What began as an effort to brighten up the stretch of South Wabash that sits beyond the shadows of L tracks has turned into a thriving artist community. The Wabash Arts Corridor, spearheaded by Columbia College in 2013, is the city’s very own “living urban canvas.” WAC is comprised of eight educational institutions, 19 galleries, 14 performance spaces, five major hotels and more than 40 restaurants, and these numbers are only expected to grow as more businesses move into the South Loop.
Over the past few years, South Wabash, from roughly Jackson to Roosevelt, has completely transformed, giving the street that sits between historic State and bustling Michigan something to brag about. The small stretch is now a citywide destination, vibrant with public art from artists local and international, providing a unique, urban space dedicated to creative expression.
The latest addition to the Wabash Arts Corridor, installed at 710 S. Wabash, is a 24-by-56-foot photograph titled “Descending into Heaven” by Chicago-based artist Darryll Schiff. The photographic mural riffs on Jitish Kallat’s installation at the Art Institute, “Public Notice 3.”
Schiff raised over $20,000 for the piece on Kickstarter, making it the first crowd-funded project to be featured along the Corridor, reinforcing the democratic spirit that characterizes the effort. Schiff’s artwork is also the first to feature LED lights, illuminating the piece for visitors at night.
A few blocks down is a piece by Brooklyn artist and activist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. “Stop Telling Women to Smile” is an international street art project that addresses gender-based street harassment. The pasted-up portraits reflect the experiences of 25 women, interviewed and sketched by Fazlalizadeh, who have been catcalled or harassed on the street. The stoic faces stand in solidarity with those who have ever felt unsafe or uncomfortable in their own neighborhoods.
The WAC currently boasts nearly 20 public projects – featuring work by local students and Banksy collaborators alike. Substitute the traditional white walls for brick facades and parking structures and you have your own outdoor museum, free of charge.