The latest mosaic mural to revamp a neglected wall in Oak Park is reflective of the time we are in now, with deep meaning, as imagined by a small group of young artists – all Oak Park and River Forest High School grads and former participants of the Oak Park Area Arts Council (OPAAC) Off the Wall summer mural program.
“You Are My Other Me,” the title of the work and part of the mural itself, is taken from a Mayan phrase and addresses “the way people of color and working-class people, among other groups, are systemically oppressed and exploited in this country,” according to the artist statement. The premise is: If I do harm to you; I do harm to myself. If I love and respect you; I love and respect myself, the statement said.
Artists Jenn Eisner, Darren Edwards, Zaria Gilmore, Greta Olson, Alison Schiffner, Emma Vejcik and Atlan Arceo-Witzl worked on the concept and design. These young artists are all in college or recent college graduates. Having worked at Off the Wall in the past, creating mosaic murals in Oak Park was not new to them. Eisner, Gilmore, Olsen and Vejcik also worked on the recent Black Live Matter mural in Oak Park. “You Are My Other Me” was led by master artist Carolyn Elaine.
To make this work possible, OPAAC received a Rapid Response and Recovery grant from the OPRF Community Foundation, said Camille Wilson White, head of the Arts Council. “The grant was to put artists to work,” she said. Off the Wall was cancelled this summer to keep artists safe and as part of budget cuts by the Village of Oak Park.
The design, featuring masked essential workers in an embrace and a message of peace and love, came together quickly over two Zoom meetings in one weekend. The result is an embodiment of 2020.
“During times of great vulnerability, many feel pressured to act out of fear rather than love,” the artist statement explains. “It’s important to remember that societal progress comes from unity. By practicing empathy in our daily lives, we can build connections that make the world feel safer for everyone.”
A professional installed the mural to ensure it was in place before cold weather made conditions unworkable for the medium. It went up in four weeks. It is located on the Union Pacific Railroad embankment near 1025 North Blvd.