Colage- I need hero

In recognition of The Wall of Respect and all those who utilize art as a platform to push boundaries and challenge convention…

At the Hyde Park Art Center Summer of 2017 artists combined unique styles to address one the most relevant canvases of our time- the public canvas- the wall. The Children of the Wall project highlights the importance of everyday heroes, specifically drawing attention to the spiritual and creative contributions made by local hip-hop artists and performers. Beginning in July 2017 with a community BBQ and live graffiti painting, the project has unfolded over a period of several months covering much of the exterior walls of the Hyde Park Art Center, at total of 3668 square feet, and will a variety of mediums- spray paint, wheat paste, photography, stencil. The project has transformed the exterior of the Center, bringing creativity out to the street and calling to passersby to come inside and experience something new or create something of their own.

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Reflections from the artists:

We draw inspiration from the Wall of Respect; a collective mural created in 1967 by OBAC (Organization of Black American Culture) who were utilizing the project to promote the Black aesthetic in art, uplift the black community and fuel the liberation movement. Through careful planning, using photography, portraiture and poetry OBAC artists placed a multitude of Black Heroes on the walls of a building at 43rd and Langley. Subjects included people like Muhammad Ali, Nat Turner and Gwendolyn Brooks. These trailblazers inspired mural projects across the nation and were also the jumping off point from which we began conceptualizing the Children of the Wall project.

All the Children of the Wall lead artists come from a graffiti background and although our styles differ considerably in some respects, we do represent a certain aesthetic; essentially a certain “school” of muralists. By calling this project “Children of the Wall” we are acknowledging the key role historic projects like the Wall of Respect play in our identity but we are also highlighting the intergenerational component- we are the humble successors who bring our own language and stories to the mix.  Because illegal graffiti played a key role in our artistic development we are also “children of the wall” in the sense that painting walls fascinated us as youths. They were what we climbed on, hide behind and painted our names on in an effort for recognition, excitement and a voice. We feel a strong connection to the brick and crumbing concrete viaducts of the south side and also the people who inhabit it, family, friends, elders, neighbors.

With the help of DJ Lunchbox Law, Ang13 and groups like Kuumba Lynx and IMAN we kicked things off with a community event to essentially “bless the project.” The event included rappers, poets, live graffiti painting, food and community art projects. (Performers also included Stick and Move Youth Crew, University of Hiphop, JNX and Urbanized Music. Graffiti panels were painted live during the event by Bel2, Raven, Dwel and Stef.)

As the Wall of Respect did before us, we used a variety of disciplines to address the concept of heroes. Rather than looking outward into the larger world, we looked on either side of ourselves for the unsung heroes. We asked the community and of ourselves:

Who are the everyday heroes? What are their superpowers?

People as young as 4 yrs old responded through social media and hand-written contributions. Heroes listed included activists, artists, mothers, fathers, grandparents, daughters, sons, all children, teachers, black and brown friends, women, God, the elements, ourselves. They were accredited with powers such as boundless perseverance, resourcefulness, love, vulnerability, forgiveness, empowerment of others. What we discovered through this process is that in order to continue to move forward toward a more just and beloved community, we need to be able to not only recognize the everyday hero next to us, but also find the hero within ourselves and be ready to take on that role when needed.

Through this project we also hope to draw attention to the historical diversity of the Hyde Park community- economic as well as racial.  We hope Hyde Parkers old and new, can look past economic and cultural differences and make sincere efforts to get to know neighbors to the south, west and north. The wellbeing and health of families in Woodlawn and Englewood (for example) are tied undeniably to theirs.

We would like to thank all the elders who schooled us on the struggle and enriched our lives. Also, special thanks to the Allison Peters Quinn and everyone at the Hyde Park Art Center for trusting us with it’s walls and facilitating the many challenging aspects of this project. Thanks to our families for their patience and support in our creative endeavors. Thanks to all the artists and performers who contributed their time and contributions. Special thanks to Michelle Nordmeyer from the Hyde Park Art Center for always being available to help with logistics, drill bits and extension cords. Another special thanks to Stephanie D’Hubert for her invaluable technological assistance in the creation of the renditions and large-scale stencils.

Lead Artists:

Miguel Aguilar (

Liz Lazdins (

Lavie Raven (

Rahmaan Statik (


Contributions from:


Bittyfotos (

Maya Odim (

Eve Rivera ( & Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer (

Rod Sawyer (

Zorzorzor (

Michelle Nordmeyer

Chicago ACT Collective


Photo references provided by:

Lamont Hamilton (

Stephanie D’Hubert (

Ronnie Boykin Jr. (



Text contributions from:

Assata Shakur, Attica of Stony Island, Hyde Park Art Center students, community members, and our friends on social media.


Wall Details:

South Wall-

-Local girl sprays paint and the rap group Urbanized Music by Rahman Statik.

-Stars by Liz Lazdins.

-Graffiti letters “Child” by Lavie Raven.


East Wall, Left to Right-

-Nude figure photo by Bittyfotos & Zorzorzor

-Graffiti on wood “Hip Hop” by Lavie Raven.

-Stars by Liz Lazdins

-B & W photo of Stick and Move Youth Crew by Rod Sawyer.

-B & W full figure by Eve Rivera from Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer’s book “Muslim Cool.”

-Screen print hearts “This machine kills facism” by Michelle Nordemeyer.

-Large graffiti piece on roll-downs “The Vibes Are Back” by Miguel Aguilar.

-B & W full figures by Eve Rivera from Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer’s book “Muslim Cool.”

-“Sanctuary for our People” posters created by Chicago ACT Collective.

-Graffiti on wood “Global” by Lavie Raven.

-Poem “Cypher” ( by Maya Odim.

-Color photo of Kuumba Lynx performers by Rod sawyer.

-Wheat paste B & W figure paint on paper “See the Good in Things” by Zorzorzor.


North Wall-

-Wheat paste B & W figure paint on paper “The Artist: The Bravery is constant. Their always representing their soul.” by Zorzorzor

-B & W figure of B-boy and educator Jonathan “Nlite” St Clair by Liz Lazdins

-Stars by Liz Lazdins

-Graffiti letters “In lak’ech” (Mayan Proverb by “I am another you, You are another me” by Lavie Raven

-Horizontal quote “Love is contraband in hell, ‘cause love is acid that eats away bars.” Assata Shakur from her autobiography.

-Vertical quote “I knew one creature who wouldn’t wear a sandal, To walk a solid sand so that her could be a vandal.” Wyatt “Attica” Mitchell (RIP) of rap crew Stony Island.

-Collage materials within stars provided community members in response to the question “Who is your everyday hero? What is their super power?”

I just found this- It really brings back memories.

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Come and check out this installation I assembled which includes my work along with the amazing works of Bel2, Eve Rivera, Gloe, Monstrochika, Stef Skills, Shan, Zena, Zorzorzor:


I was honored to judge the annual Blick Art Materials show at NIU this winter. It was my first time and an amazing experience. To go in and have to pick 25 pieces from over 70 was hard and then assigning awards was harder! What criteria to use when you judge a student art show? Technique? Originality? Emotive response? I tried to use all three. Balancing the pieces to make a good show was tough too- I gained even more respect for curators! Luckily Leyla Nora the student curator hung an amazing show. I was struck by how emotional many of these student’s works were. This school is not striving for polished perfection but rather really teaching the students how to push their concepts and emotions out into the viewer’s reality. Creating a reality that draws you in and makes you ask “Where?” “What?” “Why?” I was inspired and excited for these artists. Being a city girl I never accepted there were such raw, gritty, treasures like this fine art department out among the fields. Thanks for the love Jack Olsen Gallery!

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photo 4

Curated by Alison Bastian and Alyssa Jaracz. Works by Liz Lazdins, Mario Gonzalez and Ruben Aguirre


Want to get to know me a bit more? Here is an interview I did discussing graffiti, galleries and in between:

What was your motivation behind the decision to enter into the gallery as a venue? “I wanted to push myself artistically and find a voice specifically my own. I was building up a body of work with no real intentions of showing it in galleries but rather just because it felt good to push myself to create. It was friends and associates who encouraged me to be part of various shows and pursue solo shows.”

As an artist that has transitioned from making work for the street to making work for the gallery, why is it still important to create work for the street (i.e. sidewalk stencils)? What need or role does this play in your current artistic practice? “Everyone can see work in the street. It doesn’t pile up in your studio or hidden in on the wall in someone’s house. The streets are dynamic, things get buffed, the work is illegal so putting it up is itself a skill. I could never promise to leave it alone entirely. It is thrilling and challenging and statement about public/private space.”

How have your works (or your style) changed as they became constructed in the studio and for gallery viewing? How do your street works differ from your studio works in motivation, form, media, etc.? “My street work, murals, stencils are simpler in form than my paintings. Although lately my indoor work has been showing up in legal murals. My painting are much more illustrative. They are a way for me to tell the stories I experience in the streets. They are documentation of street characters and stories while my graf and street art are a result of my own character being played out in real time.”

Has your entry into the gallery felt limiting in any capacity? Freeing? “Galleries are a wonderful way to view my work! If a show is well lit and well hung you can really appreciate the details and textures in my pieces. But it is a totally different world than a wall or the streets, it is like a lovely frozen moment in time while the streets are always moving, breathing, eating, shitting.”

Is there a particular environment you prefer to work within? One that is more inspiring for you? “A place where I can make a mess and use spray paint are ideal. And of course being outside is lovely.”

You note that some artists “end up in the gallery because their street work is so influential that we want a permanent piece of their work for posterity. It is their illegal street work, their style, and their longevity that makes their gallery work sought after. Then there are others that were always more artists at their core and less vandals, but just didn’t happen to have a correct venue in their youth for their talent. Many have “grown up” and now make beautiful paintings, perhaps influenced by their days on the streets, rooftops and trains. And of course there is the double-threat: the graffiti and street artists in the galleries that are both of these things- a master vandal and a true artist in one.” Where do you see yourself within these types? “I am probably less vandal and more illustrator but this is not necessarily by choice. Obligations such as children, income, family have kept me inside more and more over the years. I consider myself a story-teller and wild child who likes to write on things and pay tribute to the beauty around me.”

What are your thoughts on the dividing line between street art and graffiti? “I have no idea what the difference is but I’ll give it a try. What is graffiti anyway? I guess it depends on how you define it. Graffiti has been going on for thousands of years. But if you define graffiti as stylized letters and characters that began in the 1970’s, made famous in New York, most often done with spray paint or markers then I guess graffiti is street art. Street art defined in the most literal terms. It also goes under the streets (subways) and over the streets (rooftops). Graffiti often includes dangerous venues- billboards, train yards. Graf artists don’t typically use wheat paste. Graf artists are less socially accepted than “street artists” (whatever that is) perhaps because tags are a code not easily understood by the general public. Or because it’s roots are in the urban American ghetto. Graf artists don’t have much love for street artists generally and probably visa versa. I don’t know why, I don’t buy into all that. I love it all. After all, I’m basically a retired graf writer who does “street art” now (stencils- definitely not seen as graffiti as defined above).”

What are your thoughts on permission walls? Is this still graffiti? “Permission walls are a good way to introduce communities to the prettiest parts of graffiti. Often people will walk up and ask “What does that say?” and bring their kids to check it out. They appreciate positive themes and colorful characters. When done by Graf writers permission walls are essentially murals done in a graffiti style. I’m pro permission wall but an active graffiti writer has to do illegal work to be considered active and “up.”

Besides your stencils, which are still created anonymously and illicitly, you have been involved in some public art projects (particularly one alongside another one of our exhibiting artists, ZORE). Can you describe your experiences with these types of projects? “I’m honored to be included in public art projects. The mural ZORE and I collaborated on in South Shore was a great opportunity to cross my indoor art onto the street. Using rollers and painting portraits. I’m hoping to tackle more of these in the future. I’d like to do work similar to my paintings across the outside of an entire building!”

Do you have a preference when it comes to smaller, more anonymous forms of street expressions (i.e. stencils) versus large-scale, public pieces? “I have to admit I’ve always appreciated the little things in life. The dandelion between the crumbling concrete, the cicada shell, the well placed stencil or sticker. But I never turn away from a challenge and I’ll paint the McCormick center if you want me to.”

Who’s work did (or do) you look up to? Any favorite Chicago graffiti writers?  “My earliest influences and still top favorites include Dr.Seuss and Shel Silverstein. Have you seen Rose ONeil’s “Sweet Monsters”? They are totally different than her magazine work and awesome! Alphonso Piloto Nieves is a Chicago sculptor I am crazy about. And Jennifer Cronin is inspiring- crossing boundaries of reality and excellent technical skill. Graf-wise I was taught back in the day by some of the greats: Attica (RIP), Raven, Zore, Gtek. I studied the likes of Rafa, Trixter and Casper. Avon used to get up like crazy with these ugly tags- I always liked his persistence. I’m a big fan of more recent guys like Fact and Obe. The Champ- another person crossing between graf and “street art” with these wheat paste posters. Keep your eye on Bel2 she is a very dope south side female Graf writer. Ugh I’m probably forgetting people.”

A wall painted to inspire children to strive for careers. My contribution was an astronomer and a crazy chemist. (Meanwhile I was also baking my own little munchkin in my belly!) Thanks to Elizabeth Reyes for hooking this up! Look out for the 2015 event.10371899_958273694199006_5789624345204422200_n[1]

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Come find my piece! And enjoy all the rest too…
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