Local artists ‘have it their way’

By Meryl Fulinara

Forget the pickles, forget the lettuce and add extra brushes. Burger King is taking on a unique endeavor that pushes creativity and imagination to a new level.

Located in Wicker Park, Burger King Studio, 1904 W. North Ave., opened on Oct. 24. The gallery is a collaboration between Burger King Corporation and emerging local artists, to reach people on a more local level by tapping into Chicago’s arts community.

Lauren Ross, a spokeswoman for Burger King, said the corporation found emerging and upcoming Chicago artists through a local marketing company.

“Burger King has always been very concerned with how they reach their customers,” Ross said. “This is another way for them to do something more unconventional.”

Burger King Studio creates an interactive arts gallery that utilizes cutting-edge artists who will create not only artwork, but customize T-shirts and merchandise that celebrate the spirit of the restaurant’s “Have it your way” slogan, Ross said.

Some of the artists who were involved with the first event, “Have it Your Way Tees,” were Angel D’Amico, a freelance illustrator and designer; Erik DeBat, a graffitti artist who goes by the name Risk; and Charlie Owens, a mixed media artist.

The studio space is comparable to an average-sized boutique that can be found in Wicker Park. Each artist was responsible for a section of wall space, and the walls created one big mural piece, Ross said.

“All the artists are graphically inclined designer types,” Ross said. “Every artist had a section of the wall inspired by Burger King. Some were more obvious with their Burger King tie-ins, and some more


D’Amico, 25, created a mural that featured a black silhouette of the king that is featured in the fast-food chain’s commercials sporting a pimp cane.

“I came up with the idea [and] thought, ‘If Burger King is coming to Chicago wanting to represent Chicago artists, I should give the king his own artists environment and my interpretation of that,'” D’Amico said.

The five artists then took elements of their mural designs and put them on silkscreens, Ross said. When people came in during the opening, they could mix and match the silkscreen designs and make T-shirts that they could take home.

“Everybody had their own style, but since it was focused around urban art and had to cater toward a Burger King theme, it all worked really well,” D’Amico said.

Urban art is making its mark, said Roger Rodriguez, one of the owners of Jugrnaut, 427 S. Dearborn St., a clothing boutique that specializes in street wear and features the artwork of urban artists.

Rodriguez said Chicago artists haven’t really been exposed, but now they are starting to get some recognition.

“Chicago’s urban culture is becoming more popular, especially with [Chicago music groups like] the Cool Kids getting nationwide recognition,” Rodriguez said.

Chicago was the first market for the Burger King Studio program. For the time being, Ross could not disclose the other cities that Burger King has in mind for other projects like the one in Chicago, but she did say that there was great response to the program.

The first event played host to about 600 people who came to the studio the first night, Ross said.

There will be two additional events at its Wicker Park location, one from Nov. 7-9, where additional artists will design Nike sneakers and Burger King crowns. The last event will be a skate-inspired studio space from Nov. 21-23. There will be skate ramps and skateboard decks designed by artists.

“A lot of people would say, ‘Oh, that’s whack,’ but it’s not,” Rodriguez said. “I think if corporations want to invest money in urban artists and help them get exposed, I’m all about that.”