Shoppers at the Austin Walmart Supercenter, 4650 W. North Ave., can now revel in a splash of color and community spirit as they leave the store.
Earlier this month, Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) and Walmart officials unveiled a mural painted by Oak Park artist Tia Etu. The mural, called “Generations,” was placed beyond the second set of doors, on the wall directly east of the entrance. While the artwork is easy to miss on the way in, it catches one’s eye on the way out.
The mural is part of Walmart’s Chicago Mural Program, which looks for local artists to design murals for its Chicago locations. Etu’s mural features Austin’s iconic “Pink House,” located at 556 N. Central Ave.; several generations of Austinites in a cornfield; and two kids selling snow cones.
Etu said she wanted to paint something that would show Austin in a positive light and encourage Austin residents to be self-sufficient and nurture the next generation.
According to Walmart spokesperson Colleen Dungeon, the Chicago Mural Program launched more than a year ago.
“Walmart began working with local artists to create specialized murals for its Chicago stores,” she said. “The Chicago Mural Program includes outreach to local leaders and community members to design a unique mural that speaks to the diversity and resilience of the local community.”
Dungeon said that Walmart will unveil a similar mural at Walmart Supercenter in the Chatham neighborhood, 8331 S. Stewart Ave., on April 15.
Etu owns Whatever Comes to Mind art studio in Oak Park, at 27 Harrison St., and she teaches private art classes for K-12 students and senior citizens. Etu said that, while she lives and works in Oak Park, she considers home near Columbus Park, and often takes walks in Austin. She said she has friends who live and work in Austin and has taught classes in the community.
“Because I’m on the outskirts of Chicago and Austin is right there, Austin is home, in a sense,” Etu said “It’s totally different once you cross Austin Boulevard, but it’s where I roam.”
Etu said that she was approached by Mitts’ staff and she took the project on because she thought it was a good opportunity. After Walmart approved her sketches, she painted the mural. Walmart then scanned the image and blew it up.
Etu said she painted the Pink House because “people from Austin are going to know that house and that’s going to put a smile on their face.” The cornfield and the kids selling snow cones are designed to invoke a sense of self-sufficiency, she said.
“People are growing their own food, they’re creating their own small businesses,” Etu said.
The faces of people of different ages, she said, are meant to create a sense of history and legacy.
Etu hopes that the mural will encourage shoppers “to be neighborly” and to care for the next generation.
“Feed your children, literally and figuratively,” she said. “Give them education and proper food, so they can grow and be the best they can be.”
Etu added that she wanted to paint something that would show Austin in a positive light.
“I’m hoping that they’ll just say, ‘Hey, I can relate to that, this is my neighborhood, this is what it feels like to be in the neighborhood and this is what it is,’” she said. “I hope that they feel represented. It’s not about the shootings or things like that, because we all know how Austin gets depicted in the media. I want them to feel happy and I want them to feel proud.”