Uptown artist fundraiser to repair 25-year-old mosaic at Sunnyside Mall

UPTOWN – For 25 years, a colorful mosaic installation has stood at the entrance to Sunnyside Mall, welcoming people into the pedestrian space.

The public artwork, “From Many Paths We Come,” is intended to beautify the pedestrian mall and celebrate the diversity of Uptown. But the mosaic columns have deteriorated over the years, and the artist behind the installation is asking the community for help to restore it.

“It’s really great considering he’s 25,” said artist Ginny Sykes, who lives in the Uptown neighborhood of Sheridan Park. “But it takes work, and it’s more than I can handle.”

Credit: Joe Ward / Block Club Chicago
Sunnyside Mall’s art installation “From Many Paths We Come” was produced with the help of neighbors and teenagers from Uptown.

The mosaics were installed in 1996 and unveiled the following year on Sunnyside Mall, a pedestrian walkway south of Wilson Avenue created in 1975 as part of an urban renewal effort.

In its early days, the Sunnyside Mall was not welcoming and had issues with crime and decay, Sykes said. During conversations about how to improve the mall, Sykes suggested an art project that represented the neighborhood. Former Uptown Ald. Helen Shiller put Sykes in charge of the project and called in fellow artists Mirtes Zwierzynski and Corinne Peterson.

The group opted for a mosaic installation referring to the diversity and status of Uptown as a welcoming place for new residents.

Local teens helped create the colorful mosaic columns and design tiles with a signature or character describing them. The artists also held community workshops at Truman College, where neighbors decorated individual tiles that run the length of the columns.

With gentrification accelerating in the 1990s, Sykes wanted the project to reflect the neighborhood as it then existed, she said.

“It’s a direct commentary on our history, that Uptown has been a starting point for many groups,” she said.

Credit: Courtesy of Ginny Sykes
Sunnyside Mall before 1996 on the site where the art installation is now located.

Art, along with other improvements such as flower boxes and benches, transformed Sunnyside Mall into a public plaza and gathering space as it has always been envisioned. However, the installation shows its age.

Mosaic tiles are missing in some sections. Some of the concrete has cracks and peeling paint. Sykes has touched up the project before, but this time the repairs require professional help.

She hired Brian McGlade, a public art tile expert who worked with Sykes on his projects, including Terminal 3 in O’Hare. Refurbishing the mosaics will likely cost at least $ 3,000.

So far, the neighbors have raised almost $ 2,000 to reach the goal. Any increase beyond this will pay for future corrections.

“It’s important that history remains a part of Uptown’s history,” she said.

To donate to the fundraiser, click here.

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