He’s back, The Guy Who Cares, whose distinct figures drawn on bricks, panels and CTA stops first appeared in Evanston in 2010. Often a message was inscribed below the art with a simple phrase such as, “Stay as You Are.” But even as the city scrubbed his drawings off public spaces, more faces would pop up, and his identity remained a mystery.

Then, in 2011, the anonymous artist dropped off a package at the RoundTable’s former office that offered a sneak peek into his purpose and history. It contained a bright fuschia panel of The Guy, a CD containing photos of dozens of images the artist had scattered across town that year and a two-page statement explaining why he continued to create the drawings, even as the city removed his art: 

“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 thing I see as an unfortunate consequence of my actions is the money wasted by the city to remove the art,” he wrote 10 years ago. 

Since that time, his identity, like that of his British counterpart Banksy, has remained a secret, while his images have largely disappeared – that is, until his work began to pop up again around town over the last year, recently by Trader Joe’s, 1211 Chicago Ave., and La Principal, 700 Main St.

Across from La Principal, on Custer Avenue near the Main Street Metra stop. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

In the decade following this first appearance, curiosity about who he is and what his motivations are remained strong, with residents snapping photos of his work and theorizing about his identity.

(The RoundTable invites readers to send in photos of The Guy Who Cares’ artwork, with information about when and where it was spotted, for possible publication. Email us or contact us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and let us know if we can use your name.)

New faces around city

Evanston resident Emily, who preferred to go only by her first name, alerted the RoundTable about the new faces she saw around the city, asking if we knew information about the artist. We put out a call to community members and The Guy Who Cares himself, but no one came forward. 

Emily moved to Evanston a year ago, at the peak of the pandemic, and immediately began noticing the work of The Guy Who Cares. At first she thought it was just a positive message to the community, she said, but after she discovered piece after piece, she realized it was all part of a story years in the making.

Above Avenue Nail Spa on Chicago Avenue just north of Trader Joe’s. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

“It wasn’t until this summer that I noticed the large-scale spray-painted murals, which was the final push that got me to look into this myself and see if there was a larger story about the art within the community, which is when I found the previous RoundTable article,” she said.

Emily said she admired the colors of the pieces, which made them stand out initially to her because it didn’t feel like average street art. She also liked the messaging the artist used, and felt “Stay as You Are” was validating to those struggling with mental health issues and the pandemic.

“Since moving here I have noticed Evanston has a way of bringing out the thoughtfulness and individualism of the people in the community which is what makes it a noticeably special place to be,” she said. “I just want to acknowledge the power in thoughtful acts and encourage everyone to take the extra second to look around and notice the small details, because you’re likely to find a larger story behind them if you are looking closely enough.”

Spotted on Florence Avenue. (Photo by Evan Girard)

In his package to the RoundTable in 2011, The Guy Who Cares said that Evanston lacked thoughtful public art, even though residents see the city as “a progressive and 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,” he wrote.

A decade after his works first attracted attention, The Guy Who Cares’ art has gained a new prominence, and his presence is felt in unexpected ways. 

Our office location may have changed, but the RoundTable would welcome another package from The Guy Who Cares.

Sam Stroozas

Sam Stroozas is a reporter and the social media manager at the Evanston RoundTable. She covers small businesses, social justice and human interest stories. Contact her at sam@evanstonroundtable.com and...

5 replies on “The Guy Who Cares: Evanston’s own Banksy emerges again”

  1. I worry about a “stay as you are” message when we know there is a lot of harm in the world and a lot needs to change so that everyone has access to what they need to be safe and to thrive.

  2. One oil on wood 6″x6″ on the Canal Shores bridge between the 11th and 12th holes. Same style as the one in this article.

  3. Dear Artist of The Guy Who Cares:
    Thank you for sharing your art amongst the Evanston community. We are a progressive community and all are pulling for one anomental health, well-being, and quality of life. Your creations support this movement.
    Thank you.

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