Artist Ben Blount’s second design for a mural at the intersection of Washington and Custer. (Photo courtesy of Ben Blount)

The Evanston Arts Council voted unanimously July 13 to contribute funding to a new mural slated to reflect Evanston’s commitment to racial justice.

The mural will appear on the viaduct walls on the west and north sides of the Washington/Custer intersection. The two walls, immediately off Chicago Avenue, have been empty since the fall of 2019.

The new mural will consist entirely of text – very large white letters on a black background – using language that derives from the City’s Resolution 58-R-19 passed June 2019: A Resolution Commitment to End Structural Racism and Achieve Racial Equity. The chosen verbs, Council Members said, are meant to inspire Evanston residents as they highlight the active nature of that commitment.

The Main-Dempster Mile organization proposed the mural.

In 2019, a bright graphic mural by the artist known as “Pose” had to be removed because the paint was peeling off in sheets, said Katherine Gotsick, Main-Dempster Mile executive director.

Pose then proposed that he “curate” that mural space for the next few years with a series of changing designs by artists in his studio. But a new mural never made it into the space. The organization had trouble agreeing on the next piece and then a larger delay occurred due to COVID-19. To top things off, the Pose studio disbanded.

Evanston artist Ben Blount was chosen to develop the new mural. Blount created a “Black Lives Matter” poster last year that caught the eye of the Main-Dempster Mile’s Placemaking Committee, purchasing 200 of them to put up in storefronts around town.

(Photo courtesy of Ben Blount)

“The Main-Dempster Mile is grateful to be a partner in this project, and we are thrilled that Ben Blount is locating his first mural in our neighborhood! We love all of Ben’s work,” Gotsick said. She expects approval and completion of the mural this summer or early fall.

Blount, Associate Creative Director at Razorfish Health medical advertising agency in Chicago, has resided in Evanston for the past seven years. He was recently honored with a one-person show, his second, at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis. Blount is a designer and letterpress printer interested in notions of American identity, race and culture. Letterpress is relief printing. In his art, he works primarily with ideas and text.

Since the mural site is on CTA property, it must give final approval of the design. They have not yet approved this proposed design, but approval is expected quickly in this case.

Blount’s first design, also pictured below, was rejected by the CTA after much internal debate. “It was disappointing, but I really like the second design better because it’s relevant to Evanston and because the message is open to different reads,” Blount said.

Artist Ben Blount’s first design for the mural, which was rejected by the CTA. (Photo courtesy of Ben Blount)

This second design has now been presented for CTA approval. Blount will receive help with materials from Emap, the Evanston Mural Arts Program. Friends have also offered to help with the painting.

Blount, who maintains his own art studio, MAKE, in Evanston, designed and printed uplifting posters during COVID that he distributed to all the residents of the area. “We will get through this together. After all, we’re neighbors,” the posters said. And, at the bottom he wrote, “Printed with love from your neighbor at 1123 Florence.”

Gay Riseborough

Gay Riseborough is an artist, has served the City of Evanston for 11 years on arts committees, and is now an arts writer at the Evanston RoundTable.