The frescoes await you.
Chicago’s colorful and insightful works of art adorning structures across the city are calling on everyone to come visit and rediscover the city now that pandemic restrictions are lifted.
And checking them out has never been easier, thanks to a new self-guided Chicago Loop Alliance walking wall tour.
Freelance photographer Kate Scott recently took the tour, which features local and international artists. Here are his photos and his perceptions.
The 3.1-mile boardwalk takes pedestrians past 21 murals and is divided into three routes along State Street and Michigan Avenue. The first route (Northeast Loop) begins in a lane of lower level streets 334 N. MacChesney Court. (Due to construction, the first four murals on this route can only be accessed from Lower Michigan Avenue, the tour website says.) The second tour route (State Street) begins at one of the ” legendary ‘alleys’ of the city on West Couch Place. The third tour, Southern Loop, begins right in front of the entrance to Palmer House on Monroe Street.
While some of these murals are hard to find, the online guide at Loopchicago.com, which you need to access through your phone or tablet, provides clear, easy-to-follow instructions on the best ways to view each mural. (Several of the murals throughout the tour have a QR code painted on the bottom of them that provides additional information about the artist and the artwork when scanned.) Veteran curl enthusiasts will recognize the most famous murals such as “Homage to Muddy Waters” but maybe just walked past the artwork at the Sullivan Center or MacChesney Court. Now is your chance to discover them and more.
“Our goal is to get Chicagoans back into the Loop,” said Jessica Cabe, public relations and communications manager for the Chicago Loop Alliance. “These murals have become a must in the city after our activation [pop-up festival] events, and the routes to see them range from the most laid back to the most suited to the urban explorer.
The most difficult route (Northeast Loop) runs from lower Wacker, Mich. To Randolph. This route was particularly difficult to walk, despite the directions on the website, due to the construction of the city center and the sidewalks being closed. With the number of stairs involved and the lack of sidewalks, this route is the least accessible. The murals on this route are some of the most vibrant on the tour, but are located in an alleyway that is not very pedestrian friendly.
The easier routes take walkers down State Street, with murals dotting the driveway along Couch Place, between State Street and Dearborn (behind the Nederlander Theater), and off Monroe to the Sullivan Center. The murals of the loading docks at the Sullivan Center are well hidden, making the area more like private property; here no information about the wall step.
Most of the murals are surprisingly well preserved; the Chicago Loop Alliance allocates a portion of its budget to ensure that murals are free from graffiti and extreme weather damage.
Because the tour is self-guided, it may feel less like a visit and more like a relaxed stroll down State Street. Future group tours and additional publicity, however, would greatly benefit the mural walk, as these works of art deserve the attention and time of Chicagoans. As the Loop and the rest of Chicago reopen, strolling the hidden alleys and loading docks is a great way to get acquainted with the city.
The murals are currently a permanent part of the loop, but the self-guided wall walk runs until July 4. Starting July 11, the Chicago Loop Alliance will host “Sundays on State,” where State Street will be closed from Madison to Lake on certain Sundays to welcome local artists and vendors for a “free interactive block party.”
For more information on the Self-Guided Murals Tour, visit loopchicago.com.