DevCorp Hires Outside Artists to Paint Morse CTA Mural

Why did DevCorp North hire a southside artist group to paint the mural over Morse Avenue? The work started today and will continue all week. Both the east and west sides of the platform will be covered with the mural.


DevCorp North, after all, is a corporation charged with helping to improve the business climate of Rogers Park, waaaaay up here on the north side of Chicago. But they chose to ignore ALL of the local artists in Rogers Park and hire artists from the Bronzeville/Hyde Park area, waaaaay down south.

DevCorp North's mission, so they say on their web site, "is to improve the business and economic climate of Rogers Park through business, community and economic development. We value the diversity of Rogers Park and diligently work to enhance it through balanced growth."


Wouldn't DevCorp have been furthering its own professed mission by hiring artists from Rogers Park? Artists, after all, are business people, too. They sell their services and their products. Artists are valuable contributors to Rogers Park. But the artists in our neighborhood have been shunned by DevCorp, a corporation paid with our tax dollars to hire artists from outside the very neighborhood we pay them to help improve!


I was fortunate enough to meet the artists today, and they are very nice people. I cannot blame them for accepting the work, and it seems from our 20 minute chat that they are sincere in wanting to provide the best results possible. The artists are Damon Lamar Reed and Nicole Denise Reed, a nice couple who together form Damon Lamar Reed Enterprises. No argument with them. The argument is with DevCorp.

Artists of Rogers Park: YOUR argument is with DevCorp North.


  1. Be careful Tom, if you find fault with the method of operation within certain aspects of any NFP you will be labeled!

    Was this job advertised? Perhaps and this couple presented the best portfolio? No offense to any artists, I agree.

  2. If there is any information on the process of selecting artists for this project on DevCorp's website, I'm unable to find it. It isn't under the arts heading where one would expect to find it at any rate. Their website is notoriously difficult to navigate. It would be a great if DevCorp would take the quality of their online communication a little more seriously.

    No offense to the artists that are doing the job - I'm sure they took the commission in good faith. You are correct that DevCorp's selection process isn't their concern. But awarding this highly visible project to an arts entreprenuer from outside the 49th ward while at the same time trying to position Rogers Park as arts friendly does seem kind of lame. (DevCorp doesn't know any artists?) If there really is no direct Rogers Park connection (i.e working with local school kids to design the mural, contractor using a large crew of local artists as paid interns, etc.)I guess this move was designed to avoid controversy. Imagine the scenario if DevCorp were to hold a contest or competitive bidding and judge submissions for this mural from among qualified 49th ward artists only. Who would be on the judges panel? Who would decide qualification criteria? I doubt anyone would have been any happier. Why, some residents might have even told them they think plain paint is just fine, thank you very much - spend the money on cleaning up the urine at the stations instead, please.

    If my speculation is correct, I do think they should have shown some backbone and stayed within the confines of the 49th anyway. They should only have gone outside the 49th if there were truly no artists qualified to do a job of this scale (which is possible).

    Another issue. The surface of the Morse El wasn't prepped already for a mural. A coat of white paint is not prep. The surface beneath was still crumbling before this work began. Take it from someone who worked for one of the largest and most important mural and historic architectural decoration companies in the U.S.: a LOT of prep needs to be done to stablize that surface to receive a mural if it is going to last. I hope the commission includes a requirement for appropriate prep, or this chat about where the artists live is moot.

  3. that truly stinks!

    how did this come about?

    was there an open submission process?

    did our Alderman put a posting on his site announcing an opportunity to submit a portfolio, slides, or a prospectus?

    perhaps i missed it.

  4. As to the prepping of the surface, it's an interesting process. The artists told me they painted it onto a "weaveless" film in their studio, then adhere it to the wall. So prepping for paint is a moot point; they are not painting it in fact. They are applying a film to the surface. Kinda cool.

  5. I am a graduate journalism student at Northwestern working on a video piece about this mural and the decision to select artists from outside Rogers Park. I will be shooting all my footage this Thursday (morning and early afternoon). I'm looking to get in touch with an artist from the Rogers Park community who has a strong opinion about the fact that this project is being completed by artists who are not from Rogers Park. I need to get this side of the story, so if any of you know an artist from this community (or you are an artist in Rogers Park yourself) who would be willing to take part in a brief on-camera interview this Thursday morning or early afternoon, please e-mail me at

    I can give further details about where the piece will air, etc. when I hear from you.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  6. I would be surprised if the film was able to stabilize the wall, but it is possible. I'll be curious to see. It sounds more like an efficiency for the artists that allow them to do the painting in studio and avoid having scaffolding on-site for an extended period. This process is fine as long at the wall surface won’t buckle or bubble under the film. The wall may be stable in some areas; definitely not in others. Hopefully the mural is only going up where the walls remain dry. But at least this process will prevent flaking paint in the very near term.

    But this digresses from the main issue in my view, which is why DevCorp feels the residents of this community will benefit from its expertise in the visual arts. What specific expertise do they bring to their decision-making role here? How was this commission funded? I realize this is a sacred cow, but what about the relative merits of public art and its appropriateness as a priority here?

  7. Rebecca, there's a post on the DevCorp site that talks about the latest articles in its newsletter. One titled: "The new mural planned for the viaduct at Morse & Glenwood."

    Go to the PDF and the story says the artists hired are local artists who did the old Cocoabean mural at Glenwood and Lunt:

    "Damon Lamar Reed, the local artist
    who created the Cocoabean mural at
    Glenwood and Lunt, has been selected by the Chicago Public Art Group to create the Morse Ave. mural. Measurements of the
    viaduct have been completed and he final design has been approved. The viaduct mural will showcase the arts and assets of Rogers Park using bright compelling colors and illustrations."

    Much ado about nothing, Tom?


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