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Lillstreet Art Center Celebrates 35 Years of Creative Spark

July 26th, 2010

There is a lot to like about the Lillstreet Art Center. Located a few steps away from the Montrose Brown Line stop at 4401 North Ravenswood avenue, the center seems to exude creative energy and charm. The three-story building features several classrooms and studios for the students and artists who learn and work there. But beyond serving the needs of the artistically inclined, Lillstreet has plenty to offer to the larger community. There is a gallery, a shop featuring the work of Lillstreet artists, and the First Slice Café, which helps fight hunger in Chicago in addition to serving truly delicious pie. In the words of Bruce Robbins, the Founder and CEO of the art center, Lillstreet is a place where “art and community meet.”

In the spirit of this energy and community, the Lillstreet Art Center marked its 35th Anniversary by constructing and installing a 40 square foot mural on the building’s south wall.  The mural is the brainchild of Lillstreet teachers Sonata Kazimieraitiene, Corinne D. Peterson, and Julia Sowles. The three taught a four-week mural class, and those students created the tiles for the project. Complementing these colorful pieces of ceramic tile, the mural also features tools and objects from each of the center’s eight departments – an homage to creativity in every medium. Kazimieraitiene, Peterson and Sowles, their students, Lillstreet founder Robbins, and several people from the center and the local community all gathered Saturday afternoon for the unveiling and dedication of the mural.

The mural takes the shape of a spiraling circle, representing the creative “spark” in the Lillstreet community. The pale-colored tiles in the center of the spiral give way to more vibrant ones at the edges, and the whole design is encircled by clay hands, molded from Lillstreet students. The mural is complex in that represents inspiration, the hands that shape and form that inspiration, and the tools that allow its realization. Each piece has a story; whether it is a coffee cup, a digital camera, or even a fork from the café – all aspects of the art center are included. The mural is a piece of art that captures the Lillstreet community, both literately and figuratively, and manages to be engrossing and beautiful in the process.

The next time you find yourself on the Brown Line, take a moment to visit the gem of communal creativity that is Lillstreet Art Center. Check out the mural, browse the gallery, and eat piece of pie. Who knows? You might even sign up for a class and discover that creative spark for yourself.

-Nicole Nelson

Nicole Nelson is a second-year graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, going for her Masters in New Arts Journalism. She is currently the marketing intern at Fear No Art Chicago. When not writing or studying, she enjoys taking pictures, reading historical fiction, and finding art in unexpected places.