Murals artist set to brush up in Homewood
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org August 21, 2012 10:12PM
Artist Richard Haas talks about his new mural designs for three area buildings at the Homewood Village Hall in Homewood, Illinois, Monday, August 20, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 23, 2012 6:01AM
Something about empty walls — especially in Homewood — brings out the artistic talents of Richard Haas.
The award-winning American painter has designed and painted murals around the world. But after three new ones are painted in Homewood in the coming months, no community will have more Haas murals.
The village board in June approved spending $108,000 for Haas and painter Thomas Melvin, a former student of his, to paint murals on the exteriors of three commercial buildings in town.
They will be painted on the east wall of GoodSpeed Bike Shop, 2125 W. 183rd St.,; the south wall of the South Suburban Family Shelter, 18137 Harwood Ave.; and the north wall of the Lantry/Delano building, 18155 Dixie Highway, village spokeswoman Rachael Jones said.
“The concepts are confirmed,” Jones said, “but there may be some slight aesthetic tweaks made by Mr. Haas.”
Each mural has a different theme, she said.
The bike shop mural “obviously has a cycling theme, a picturesque scene of cyclists of all ages,” Jones said.
The family shelter can be seen from Homewood’s railroad platform, so a train theme is a good fit.
Another is the “Drivin’ the Dixie” theme for the third mural, which is along Dixie Highway, host of the event held each summer that has cars driving south on the historic highway and making stops at notable sites along the way.
Haas gives murals a 3-D look that sometimes is so convincing that passers-by can become confused. Mayor Rich Hofeld recalled when a motorist parked in front of the service station mural at Pete’s Auto, 18678 Dixie Highway, waiting for an attendant to come out.
“His murals are a real draw, not only for the followers of Richard Haas, but for people who just want to see the murals,” Hofeld said. “It’s a nice tourist attraction. He’s easy to work with and we have some great walls to put them on.”
Haas, who was born and grew up in southern Wisconsin, enjoys returning to the Midwest.
“It’s a very familiar spot,” he said of Homewood.
For those who like to paint by number, Haas will have 11 Homewood murals, according to Homewood Historical Society president Elaine Egdorf.
Haas appreciates the village government’s support of the arts — and, of course, that there are blank walls in need of artwork.
He also is happy to be working again with Melvin, a student of his 40 years ago at Bennington College in Vermont, where Haas taught graphic arts.
Melvin worked with Haas on some of his first art projects.
In trying to find the right themes for murals, Haas tries to capture what makes sense.
“I found the railroad theme near the station makes perfect sense since the village has a lot do with the railroad. It made total sense. The Dixie Highway mural has been a theme of interest for me,” Haas said from his studio in New York.
It typically takes three to four weeks to complete a mural, Haas said.
Painting should begin next week, depending on weather. Dry is good.
The project is paid for with funds from a special taxing district, Jones said.
“It (the fund) allows for public improvements or beautifications of certain structures. Each of these buildings are in this area,” Jones said. “Homewood is becoming a community that attracts a creative class of arts and culture.”
For those who would like to watch Haas and Melvin at work but can’t do so in person, the village has a solution.
“What’s kind of cool this year is we are going to do a time-lapse video of the murals as they are painted. It will be on our Facebook page or our website,” Jones said.
Haas has murals around the world, “and then there’s Homewood,” Jones said.
“We’re so lucky. Richard Haas said he enjoys the people here, and now we’ll have the largest collection of his murals,” said Jones, noting that the village soon will be touting them in a promotional campaign.
Melvin said the murals “are not giant” but in one case will be two stories tall.
“They are not particularly complex,” he said, “but they will take some time.”