Wilmette, News

Wilmette trustees give enthusiastic go-ahead to Veterans Park mural, artist

Artist presents concept to mural committee

Plans to paint a mural at Veterans Park in downtown Wilmette moved a step closer to fruition on Wednesday, April 24, when the Village Board unanimously approved a contract for mural design and installation.

The $38,000 contract for the mural at Veterans Park, 1111 Central Ave., was awarded to City to City, of Chicago, and Village Manager Mike Braiman said the mural will be painted by artist Luis Ramirez. (Jump to artist info and initial mural concept.)

The Village began exploring the possibility of a downtown mural in 2021 when the Sesquicentennial Committee began discussing public improvement projects for the Village’s 150th anniversary. Since September 2023, the Village’s efforts have been focused on a mural at Veterans Park, and officials formed an ad hoc committee that has been leading the process.

Braiman said the committee received 23 submittals from “really highly qualified artists” and narrowed them down to four before ultimately recommending Ramirez as the artist.

The committee and Ramirez will continue to meet as potential designs for the mural are discussed, with Braiman adding that the goal is to have the public artwork completed by the end of the summer.

The mural is fully funded by donors, “in large part from donations solicited from the Village’s sesquicentennial celebration — which were intended for some type of public improvement, public artwork project — as well as from the Wilmette Rotary Club,” Braiman said, while also thanking those who donated.

In response to questions from trustees, Braiman said that while the money is coming from donations, the Village Board still has to vote on it because of the amount of money.

“Any time we as the Village are spending public funds, if it’s over $25,000, the Village Board has to approve that expenditure, no matter where those funds come from,” he said.

While trustees unanimously supported the mural, one Wilmette resident, Mark Weyermuller, questioned, among other things, why the mural was being painted directly on the brick. Concerned about damage to the building, he suggested that the mural be painted on plywood that’s affixed to the wall.

Braiman spoke about the mural being painted on the brick prior to public comments, and said it’s not expected to be an issue and changes can be made in the future.

“We reviewed the possibility with Mr. Ramirez in terms of how, if we wanted to change the artwork in the future, we could cover it up with an oil-based primer and paint over it,” Braiman said, adding that Ramirez or another artist can touch it up, and if a future board decides to remove the mural, “(the paint) can be removed, including the base layer of primer, and the brick restored if the Village ever so chooses.”

Trustees praised the idea of the mural.

“This is again a great example of how the community will come together and individuals will work for the betterment and the improvement of Wilmette,” Trustee Gerry Smith said. “And I think this piece of art will be something that will be very special that we will all take in and appreciate over the years.”

Village President Senta Plunkett said the project has generated much interest in the community, as evidenced by the response to the ad hoc committee.

“I’ve never had more applications for any commission … and it was people with fantastic qualifications and so hard to say no,” she said.

Plunkett added that the mural will be a positive for Wilmette.

“I think it’ll add even more vibrancy to our downtown, and I know our businesses are excited because it’ll bring more people to downtown Wilmette and enjoy our businesses,” she said. “I think it’s a win-win.”

The artist and concept

A day after the Village Board approved the mural contract, Ramirez met with the mural ad hoc commission on April 25 to present his concept for the artwork.

Ramirez, also known as Asend One, is a Chicago-based artist specializing in large-scale murals. He painted Chicago’s largest outdoor mural, “Carnivale,” at 702 West Fulton Market and is working on a full-building project at 4201 Lake Cook Road in Northbrook.

The artist uses acrylic-based paint that is “specifically formulated for outdoor murals,” according to Village documents, and should last for at least 10 years before touchups are needed.

Ramirez began his discussion with the ad hoc committee by praising the opportunity the assignment offers.

“I don’t get as many projects with so much meaning behind it. This is definitely one of them,” he said.

He then segued right into his idea for the mural, which he summarized as a simple interaction between people, like a “Kodak moment.” He showed a digitized sketch — imposed on the site — of his vision: a child, supported by a mother, handing a flower to a crouched adult, likely a military service member or veteran.

Details of the piece remain a work in progress, but Ramirez and the committee members discussed everything from color to background imagery to lighting to natural elements, such as a nearby tree in the park.

Multiple committee members were quick to praise the concept and expressed excitement to provide feedback as the concept moves toward a final design.

The group agreed Ramirez would return to the committee sometime in June with an update, and hopefully, work on the mural can begin over the summer and be complete in about three weeks.

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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