It sure has been cold, grey, and muddy these past few weeks. Fear not though, I am here to bring some color into your lives. Instead of my normal column, this month I’m writing about just a few of the various murals that can be found around Champaign-Urbana.
We’ll start in Urbana, which frankly has a lot to offer in terms of murals, especially here at the old post office building, now the Independent Media Center, which has art on multiple sides.
First, the South wall of the building. I was a little shocked to discover that this whole mural is by one artist since it has three very different segments.
When I think of murals in public places, it usually conjures up an image of poorly painted children with weird proportions holding hands and frolicing in front of a rainbow where the colors are in the wrong order. The first section of this mural is much more expertly done than all that, but still seems very traditional. It depicts people learning and making cool stuff at the IMC.
It’s quite nice, but not nearly as great as the next section.
Behind the chain link fence surrounding the radio antenna along the same wall, there are three figures painted on a green background.
We got Conehead Baby...
and we got Bugwing Dude, and Turtle Boy.
I’m gonna come right out and say that I love Turtle Boy. He’s clearly having a great time riding his scooter, and no matter what angle you look at him from he gives you this look like “yeah, I’m having a great time, no you can’t ride my scooter.” I really want to be friends with Turtle Boy, but he is too rad for me.
Keep on scootin’ Turtle Boy.
The final segment of the mural is some badass gems in an interlocking pattern. It looks like a game of Wall Bejeweled, and it makes you want to walk up and touch the stones. However there’s three blank octagons there as well, which makes this portion of the wall seem unfinished.
Artist, if you’re reading this, please put three more turtle boys into these octagons. I think it’ll really give the piece more emotional resonance (at least with me, Turtle Boy Fan #1).
In the same alleyway as Turtle Boy, but on the other side, there’s this guy:
I call him Cool Elephant. I think Cool Elephant still counts as a mural even though he’s small. Sometimes when I’m having a stressful time in my life, I just think about Cool Elephant.
On the East side of the IMC is another mural, or set of murals. Apparently back in 2009, the IMC threw a mural painting party. You could go and paint whatever you wanted on a small portion of this wall. I’m real bummed that I missed that party.
There’s some real weird stuff here. I could write a whole column exploring all of the paintings on this wall, and it would get surreal quickly. This is my favorite piece here though:
These three birds are pals and they’re looking for trouble. They also bring us the important message that “wisdom must be earned.”
On the opposite side of Lincoln Square Mall from the IMC you can find another mural, right on the corner of Illinois and Race.
This is Roo. She’s painted on the side of a house and looks to be a Yorkshire Terrier. The Urbananites I interviewed for this column were split with regards to Roo, some saying she’s cute and “a good girl,” others remarking that the painting is “creepy.” And it is true, looking right into Roo’s eyes is like staring into the black abyss of infinite time and space.
Look at her little bow though! Awwww.
In Crane Alley, North of Main St. there’s this mural of a window painted onto a blank brick wall.
It’s a nice window but pretty boring overall. If I were painting window murals, I’d have a somewhat more voyeuristic artistic vision. Instead of just some inert houseplants, there’d be windows showing people having sex, or somebody getting murdered, or some dogs sitting on a couch they’re not supposed to be on while their owners are out. You know, real juicy stuff.
Moving right along to the alley occupied by Sipyard. This space definitely displays some murals, but it mostly contains chaos. The art on these walls really runs the gamut. There’s inspiring quotes, vulgar quotes, poorly drawn cartoon characters, really expertly drawn cartoon characters onto which some other person has poorly drawn some penises— a whole spectrum of outdoor wall artistry.
Then there’s this hotdog.
This hotdog is my favorite thing in the Sipyard alley due to its pristine simplicity. Though it does also make me hungry, and mad that they don’t serve hotdogs at Sipyard.
Finally, we shift to downtown Chamaign for one of my favorite murals in C-U, the Nitaya Thai sign.
Look at all these elephants! Sure, they’d be cooler if they had sunglasses, but it’s okay that they don’t. This isn’t just a transportative work showing pastoral scenes from Thailand though, it’s also highly informative. Nitaya’s phone number is helpfully reproduced right in the middle, and the slightly obscured, but very present PEPSI logo brings the whole piece together. I really hope the Himalayan Chimney, the new restaurant going into this space, will put a similar mural on this wall, with beautiful images of a foreign land, and a reference to their soft drink affiliation.
Well, there are tons more murals in this town, but this is all I have space for today. Maybe eventually I'll do a murals tour, part 2.