Rogers Park’s Mile of Murals encourages resilience and happiness


Erin Brown

The mural “Be Happy” is a new addition to the “Mile of Murals” in Rogers Park. 1371 W. Estes Avenue.

By Miranda Manier

Two new additions are coming this fall to Rogers Park’s Mile of Murals, a project intended to beautify the stretch of wall along the Glenwood Avenue Red Line embankment, adjacent to the Morse station.

Multidisciplinary artist Gretchen Hasse will provide a piece called “Resilience,” which focuses on Rogers Park’s inclusive spirit. The other, “Be Happy,” is a collage by artist Thomas Kong, who is working with artists from the Roman Susan Art Foundation. 

“Resilience” is a response to this year’s call for text-based mural proposals and reflects the neighborhood’s sense of community, Hasse said. 

“It’s a strong [and supportive] community,” she said. “Resilience is a quality of being able to come back after a lot of trauma and I see that a lot in Rogers Park, and I think it’s a quality to be emulated.” 

Hasse’s proposal was unique, which is why she was chosen for the project, said Lea Pinsky, co-manager of the Mile of Murals project along with her husband, Dustin Harris.

“She [has] images of all people. All colors, people who are able-bodied, people with disabilities, young, old, and they’re all walking down the street,” Pinsky said. “Scattered through that, with these buildings, is the word ‘resilience.’” 

One or two works are added to the Mile of Murals each year since the project’s 2007 inception. The project is a collaboration  between the Rogers Park Business Alliance and Special Service Area 24. 

The murals usually focus on a specific theme that relates to their location in the mile. Murals on one side of the project focus on local and community values while murals on the other side focus on universal themes, according to Pinsky. 

“Be Happy,” will be located across from Kim’s Corner Food, 1371 W. Estes Ave., a convenience store Kong has owned for more than 10 years. About six years ago, he began creating collages with packaging materials from his store, such as Coca Cola labels, according to Kristin Abhalter, an artist who is contributing to the project through the Roman Susan Art Foundation. 

Kong’s collages, vividly colored by use of bright labels, decorate his convenience store. The collages are also on display at The Back Room, a gallery in the back of his store. 

Kong designed more than 200 collages in a two-week period following his decision to send a proposal for the Mile of Murals, Abhalter said. Eventually, this selection was whittled down to Kong and the Roman Susan Art  Foundation’s favorites.

“Dan [Miller, another artist from Roman Susan Art Foundation] has helped [Kong] mass produce these stickers that say ‘be happy,’ so those play a part in the collage designs,” Abhalter said, adding that the phrase “be happy” is sprinkled throughout the mural.

“Be Happy” and “Resilience” both play a part in Rogers Park’s mission of becoming an arts destination,  according to Pinsky. 

“Rogers Park is a very arts-forward neighborhood,” she said. “Rogers Park  really wants to put a public face on the fact they support the arts, and this project … does that.”