The winners are in for the Oak Park Area Arts Council's first round of artists who will design 10 of 20 new mini-murals slated to be painted this summer on sections of the Union Pacific Railroad retaining wall, which runs between North and South boulevards from Austin Boulevard to Harlem Avenue.
The council has picked the first 10 winners, and the choice wasn't easy, according to Oak Park Area Arts Council Executive Director Camille Wilson White. That's in part because this year, the arts group saw more applicants than ever for the project, according to Wilson White.
"I think we had about 113 applications that came in for round one," she said. "That's probably the most we've ever received to date."
The first-round selections were Nick Bridge, Alex Cruz, Tia Etu, Rebekah Kuczma, Kyle Lafever, Lewis Lain, Kate Lewis, Grant Nickson, Melina Ester Scotte and Thaddeus J. Woods.
And those are just the first 10. The second round of applications is due on June 14. More information is available on the Oak Park Area Arts Council's website at oakparkareaartscouncil.org/causes/mini-murals.
Wilson White speculated that the increase in applications could be the result of a change in this year's process, which specified that one of the 20 murals this year will be a tribute to the late Val Camilletti, a beloved figure in the community and owner of Val's halla Records.
Wilson White said the mural will be located near Val's former location 723½ South Boulevard. The store moved years ago and is now located in the Oak Park Arts District at 239 Harrison St.
The decision to dedicate one of the murals to Camilletti was a compromise of sorts from the Oak Park Village Board of Trustees, which declined last year to give Camilletti an honorary street in Oak Park.
The board noted at the time that a mural might be a better option, rather than going down the path taken by Chicago, which has thousands of honorary streets.
Wilson White said she received an email from trustees Dan Moroney and Deno Andrews after the vote requesting that one of the murals be in honor of Camilletti.
"Rather than putting something together really fast, we decided to make it part of the mini-mural project for the next spring and allow everybody to apply," she said.
She said artists can submit up to three works, one of which can be a shot at the Camilletti mural.
Wilson White added that those who submitted art for the first round can re-submit for the second round.
Artists who are selected receive $500 up front for supplies and another $500 upon completion. They are required to cover the mural in a protective sealant that will preserve the art for 15 to 20 years, according to Wilson White.
The mural project began about 10 years ago and has resulted in more than 100 mini murals along the rail line. Applications come from across the country, but most of those applying have been from the Chicago area, Wilson White said.
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