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The Guy Who Cares has returned. There is more to know about the nonchalant figure whose image began to appear last spring on bricks, doors, panels and other exposed, if not public, spaces. He and his messages of laid-back delight (“You are cared for”; “average but happy”; “free spirit”; and “dolce far niente,” as examples) may have been out of sight for a few weeks – their fade from public view courtesy of the City of Evanston’s graffiti removal – but a package delivered to the RoundTable last week offered a glimpse into the purpose and history of the figure named by the RoundTable as the Guy Who Cares.

The package contained a bright fuchsia panel of the Guy with the message “Stay As You Are,” and a CD containing photos of images this artist has scattered around town over the past several months. Some, were sprayed on walls; others were more carefully painted on bricks or Masonite panels. The four or five sightings of the Guy’s work by RoundTable staff and readers, however, were only a droplet in the paint bucket when compared with the dozens of images on the CD.

“Stay as You Are,” a two-page statement from the still anonymous artist, provided some information about the purpose of these scattered but happy images.

A “Whys” Guy

In “Stay As You Are,” the Guy Who Cares provided answers to some questions that likely arose over the past few weeks: Why Evanston? Why engage in an act that many see as fruitless and destructive to the community? What’s the meaning of the messages?

The Guy answered the “Why Evanston?” question this way: “To most it seems that my artwork would be suited to the younger and hipper neighborhoods of Chicago. Indeed this is precisely the case, and it is exactly the reason why I chose Evanston as an area apt for public art. Evanston is virtually absent of thoughtful public art, which is interesting because Evanston seems to fancy itself as a progressive, artistic community. This is not to say that the Evanston community harbors delusional thoughts of itself; rather, there is an important demographic of people whose interests are not being properly represented by the City. I think of how much more Evanston represented a home and eccentric community 10 years ago. Through my art, I try to represent and pay homage to the Evanston of my youth and the interesting and eccentric pockets that still exist today.”

The Medium and the Message

Despite the genius and popularity of Banksy and others street artists, some still see such paintings such as the Guy’s as destructive of public property. The Guy says, “I believe that it’s important to create and act outside of the boundaries of the bureaucracy. … I try to make the art accessible to a broad range of people, but I’m especially trying to appeal to marginalized demographics. … I know that my work may seem offensive to some…, but I believe that it’s ultimately adding to the quality of life in Evanston rather than detracting from it. The only things I see as an unfortunate consequence of my actions is the money wasted by the City to remove the art. …

“I wanted to embrace the general community as much as possible, and what better way than simple, self-effacing messages …? As for the faces, they are a simple and fun way of branding myself. … It is not an advert [sic] campaign designed by a team of people with the sole desire to whet the consumer appetite. …

“Over the past few months I’ve attempted to make an impact on the general community, and I intend to continue putting up public art for the duration of the summer in some capacity.”

Readers may stay alert for messages of kindness from the Guy Who Cares.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...