By ALLISON MATYUS
A larger-than-life street art installation is taking over Hyde Park with portraits of familiar community members.
Hyde Park Heroes features 15 Hyde Parkers as depicted in large-scale banners in various locations around the community. Chris Devins was inspired to explore the identity of the community he has called home his whole life.
“I’m a lifelong Hyde Parker, the subjects are all Hyde Parkers…made in, for, featuring and by Hyde Parkers. It’s a look at the Hyde Park identity as a mirror,” Devins said.
The banner-like photographs that are displayed on the side of brick buildings were installed on Friday, and will be up for the community’s enjoyment until November. Locations include Powell’s Bookstore, 1501 E. 57th St., 1518 E. 54th St. and 1606 E. 51st St.
Devins first came up with the concept of a hyper-local installation back in March, by posing the question, “Who do you think should be noticed in Hyde Park?” on social media.
“At first, people mentioned entities like Barack Obama or Harold Washington, but Chris wanted everyday people…characters from Hyde Park,” said Betsy Rubin, who participated in the project as a “hero” and has lived in the community her whole life.
Rubin, whose portrait will be featured on the side of Powell’s Bookstore, said she was inspired to get involved with the project when she saw Devins’ previous works, particularly the Bronzeville Legends Initiative that Devins completed last year.
“Chris is a passionate artist who enjoys different types of people, and I think all different types of people are represented in the project,” Rubin said, adding that she knows and recognizes some of the people being featured. “I’m looking forward to see myself in good company with the others.”
James Nurss, the owner of First Aid Comics; Dorothy Bowser; Chamala Jordan; Aisha Maryam; the Hyde Park rapper Yfee; Rich Nayer and even Devins himself are some of the featured “heroes.”
Devins said he hopes to replace the identity of violence and negativity the city of Chicago often sees with these positive Hyde Park role models. As an urban planner first and an artist second, Devins said he is using tactical urbanism to create this change.
“Tactical urbanism is making changes in neighborhoods at a basic level and quickly,” Devins said. “It’s about getting something out there for people to see right now and make a difference in the moment.”
The Hyde Park Heroes project showcases everyday lives as they are in order to capture the true essence of Hyde Park.
Rubin said the strong sense of community that Hyde Park is known for is because of its like-minded, yet diverse, people.
“We all stand for the same thing here,” she said. “Hyde Park sees the world as a place where it is important to have different types of people.”