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How Green Star Movement is “Changing the Urban Canvas”

As Chicagoans, we are lucky to be exposed to a variety of different forms of public art.  Blessed with numerous blank walls, building faces and underpasses, we have a vast “urban canvas” to be transformed into accessible works of art for all to enjoy.   Many talented artists have seized the opportunity to turn these spaces into their own creations, and Green Star Movement has played an integral role in marshaling young artists to take part in the transformation of their environment.  I have personally had the pleasure of working with Green Star to build murals for the past few months, and watching these huge pieces of art come to life.  I had a conversation with the non-profit’s founder and executive director Kamelia Hristeva to discuss the organization’s methods and greater mission.

Burr Elementary School, 1621 W. Wabansia Ave

Green Star Movement challenges young people to create public art using the medium of bricolage murals, which combine ceramic tile mosaic, sculpture, and painting. The variety of methods used to create the mural not only teach participants a wide range of artistic skills, but also allows them to contribute in a wide variety of ways to create something beautiful.

Their giant mural creations are hard to miss. You can spot glistening mirror and colorfully grouted ceramic tile from LaSalle II Magnet Elementary School on Division Street in Wicker Park, from Suder Montessori Magnet School near the United Center, from Burr Elementary in Bucktown, and from as many as 40 other locations scattered across the city.  With the help of Green Star, all of these murals were created with the goal of engaging community members to better their space, realize public art, and provide useful art education and teamwork skills.  Hristeva has made it a priority to work with schools with under-funded or nonexistent arts education programs and disenfranchised areas of Chicago.  Green Star’s newest effort, the Change Your Urban Canvas Project, works specifically to foster urban revitalization and positive community interaction in hardest hit neighborhoods.

Students working at the Hiawatha underpass in the Edgebrook neighborhood. Photo curtesy of Efren Adkins

Green Star Movement currently has two murals in the works, both set to be completed on August 16.  In partnership with After School Matters, Green Star is working to beautify the Haiwatha underpass in the Edgebrook neighborhood, and the west-facing wall of Farragut Career Academy in Little Village.  As many as 30 teenagers, as well as many interested volunteers and community members of all ages, have been coming together five days a week to take an active part in the transformation of once bleak, everyday sights into works of art.   As someone who has been actively taking part in the creation of the Farragut project, it is a truly magical process to watch and take part in.  There are many more murals to come from Green Star, and Chicago will continue to benefit from the positive dialogue and influence that Green Star strives to inspire.

For the full interview with Green Star Movement’s founder and executive director Kamelia Hristeva, click here.

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