Saturn crashed onto the surface of Mars, purple-spotted venus fly traps sprouted out of the red-orange space dust, and human figures in space suits fought off an alien octopus with at least eight eyes. It’s just a normal day in the neighborhood with one of the newer additions to the Logan Square street art scene.
The brown brick exterior of an apartment building on the corner of Fullerton and Drake Avenues transformed themselves into the walls of an outer space fantasy dream when Rosie Stewart took on her very first street art project in Logan Square.
However, the tentacles of an angry-looking space octopus don’t seem to be scaring away residents. Rather, the new mural has children stopping and laughing, and the unwanted vandalism of the past is making a welcome disappearance from the previously drab walls of the building.
Tina Lefauve, landlord of the building for about four years, has lived in Logan Square since 1989, and she recalls how this stretch of Fullerton Avenue used to be graffiti alley. For her, this is a way to beautify the neighborhood and to make that old image of vandalism disappear. From Lefauve’s understanding, street artists will respect each other and not paint over another’s public work.
Stewart, a 28-year-old painter making her living creating sets and scenery for plays and museums, lives in the building in which she decorated with the red rocks dust. It was a completely welcome extension to the apartment complex. In fact, Lefauve even asked her to take on the project. Stewart worked on the mural on her weekends off.
“It happened to coincide when I was really really busy at work, so I could only really work weekends on it,” Stewart said. “I think it took me about two and half months of just working on weekends. I usually put in about 10 hours a weekend.”
According to Lefauve, once every month or so the building would get tagged by strangers, splattering the brown walls with unwanted graffiti. Lefauve knew that Stewart painted professionally, and would be able to do a good job with a mural for the building.
With only four apartments in the complex, all the tenants know each other well and get along with Lefauve as landlord, who lives in the building as well. Neighbors don’t seem to be opposed to the mural either.
“If I’m sitting at my desk, I can hear people outside,” Lefauve said. “Most often it’s a young kid with mom or dad or grandma or grandpa, and they’re saying, ‘look at the aliens!’ I think the fact that kids react to it in that way is unique.”
When Lefauve heads over to The Double Urban Tavern (3545 W. Fullerton Ave.), the nearby neighborhood corner bar, she’d be talking with someone who all the sudden mentioned the new mural and how much they loved it. “I live there, I had that happen,” Lefauve would respond.
Stewart was originally thinking it might be a Calvin and Hobbes inspired mural, but then received some inspiration from Lefauve in the form of a sci-fi painting Lefauve’s mother did in high school, described by Lefauve as a “high school student’s cubist treatment of a steel plant.”
Steve Norak, tenant in the building and friend of Stewart and Lefauve, thinks the aliens might have scared off the taggers from before. “If I ever own a building, I’d like something like this on it,” Norak said. “I feel pretty proud that it’s on our building. I think it’s really cool, not only to Rosie’s fantastic ability but also to how great the landlord is.”
As for the future of the mural and the apartment complex both, Lefauve is open to new mural ideas and working with Stewart again to keep the public artwork around.
“It’s gonna decay, and that’s gonna be part of its life and the way people will experience it,” Lefauve said. “In 10 years if it looks like an old painted ghost, I think that could be kinda cool. I have an urge to preserve it, but if Rosie is around and wants to modify it, I’m like, tell me how much the paint’s gonna cost!”