Chicago Artists Honors House Music Legend Frankie Knuckles In A Mural

frankie knuckles

From the moment he heard that iconic DJ Frankie Knuckles had died, the local DJ and graffiti artist known as Mike Tupak began planning a mural to honor the musical legend.

Public art seemed the best way to honor Knuckles while educating those that may not have known what the man meant to many here.

“I didn’t personally know Frankie, but a lot of my friends did and they were hurting,” Tupak said. “I just knew (a mural) had to be done. I reached out to other artists and said, ‘We gotta do it.’ ”

Growing up in Chicago in the 1980s, house music unified young people from all over the city and got them grooving to the same beat, said graffiti artist known as BboyB. He was referred to as the “godfather of house.” 

When Knuckles, 59, died of complications from diabetes in April, it was like losing a close friend for many fans.

For weeks, a group of seven graffiti artists scouted locations, collaborated on a design and coordinated a time to create a mural. They wanted a space that would get a lot of eyes, but also had enough room to create a big display.

BboyB, Tupak and other mural artists such as Skol, Mugs, Statik, Des and Flash came together because they all were fans of Knuckles, BboyB said.

Because the men are artists in what is still considered a controversial art form, they all go by pseudonyms.

The idea for the wall came from Tupak. BboyB found the space to paint it and Flash organized the work. The men first covered the wall blue, then they painted together to get the colorful mural finished.

They unveiled their wall in Logan Square earlier this week. It is located on the rooftop of X-It European Clothing Co. in the 2900 block of West Fullerton Avenue, facing the CTA Blue Line tracks.

“People ride that train line everyday,” Tupak said. “They come into O’Hare and they take the Blue Line downtown. Now the first thing they will see is Frankie Knuckles. It will hit them that we care.”

The mural shows an image of Knuckles with a glowing vinyl record behind him as a halo. The paint on the mural is bright and colorful, a nod to Knuckles’ happy and uplifting disposition, BboyB said. In the portrait, Knuckles is smiling because in life he always wore a grin.

“We didn’t want it to be a ‘Rest In Peace’ wall,” he said. “Those seem more gang-related or like someone shot you. We wanted it to show him as loved by Chicago. The only thing that shows he is deceased is we put the year he was born and the year he died.”

The artists used nearly 100 cans of spray paint on the mural and paid for the project themselves. They finished the piece after working on it for about three days. They don’t know how long it will stay up.

“A lot of young people have stopped by to take pictures,” said Erik Melos, the owner of the clothing store where the mural is located. “I see the viewers from the train checking out the work. The art is positive and very tastefully done.”

Source: Chicago Tribune


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