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Hospital’s new mural commemorates Beverly Breast Cancer walk

A mural made pieces more than 8000 photographs from previous breast cancer walks was created by Cesar Santalo was installed

A mural made of pieces of more than 8,000 photographs from previous breast cancer walks was created by Cesar Santalo and was installed recently at the Women's Center at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park. | Jessie Molloy/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 5, 2014 2:09AM



The Women’s Center at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park recently installed a mural entitled “We Are Family” commemorating the 15th anniversary of its Beverly Breast Cancer walk.

Miami-based artist Cesar Santalo created the 250-inch-long, 80-inch-high collage specifically for Little Company of Mary using pieces of over 8,000 photographs taken at the Breast Cancer Walk over the last 14 years.

“I opened every single photo they sent me,” Santalo says, “between eight and ten thousand. And I tried to incorporate as many people as possible.”

The images in the mural, unveiled on Aug. 30, include participants in the walk, cancer patients, hospital staff and volunteers, community businesses which sponsor the walk, local politicians, religious figures and icons, pieces of prayers, and even a picture of and a letter written by Little Company of Mary founder Mary Potter.

“I wanted women who come here to see the pictures and know they aren’t alone,” Santalo said.

After choosing photographs, Santalo adjusted each of the high resolution images on Photoshop and compiled them into the greater image of silhouetted families walking through a park, a process which was completed over four months. The final image, saved as a 50 gigabyte file, was then blown up to the appropriate size, and printed on metallic photo paper embedded in 79 Plexiglas panels of varying size.

“The materials alone cost about $10,000,” Santalo said. “They would be very easy to damage in transport, so that’s why I drove up from Miami with them myself.”

Each of the 79 smaller panels is affixed to a block of wood of various depths and arranged into one of five larger panels on the women’s center wall to create the final, three-dimensional image.

“The center portion is the farthest out from the wall and on the side pieces, the panels with the people on them stand out more from the background to create a 3-D effect,” Santalo said. “This is a technique I use in many of my collages.”

Santalo also explained his use of spaces and breaks between the small panels to help create continuity through the mural’s segments. “When you look at the panels close up you can see all the individual photographs and the larger shapes, like the people and trees, get blurred, but when you stand back and don’t focus so closely your eyes make it into one image and it all comes together. Like the community comes together for this cause.”

While Little Company of Mary is now the only Chicago area hospital to have a custom piece of art of this kind, it was another Santalo work in the area that inspired the commission.

“I went to Christopher Columbus High School in Miami,” Santalo said. “The former president of the school [Brother Hank Hammer] is now the president at Marist High School and he asked me to do a mural for them.”

“We knew we wanted to commemorate the walk with some kind of art work,” Little Company of Mary Foundation Associate Director Patricia Morley said. “But we didn’t know what we were doing. One of our board members saw the mural at Marist and liked it, so we asked about Cesar and contacted him to create a collage for us.”

“I’m honored to commemorate how the community here in Chicago comes together in this show of warmth and love,” Santalo said. “It’s amazing how something as sad as cancer can inspire an event so beautiful.”

The Beverly Breast Cancer Walk is held every year on Mother’s Day and is the Little Company of Mary Foundation’s biggest charity event. In its fifteenth year this past May the walk had over 14,000 participants and raised about $565,000. To date it has raised over $4 million.

Money from the walk has gone to breast cancer research as well as equipment for the women’s health center, including two digital mammography units when the center opened in October 2012. Next year’s proceeds already have been earmarked to obtain a Nurse Navigator for breast cancer patients and a Clinical Research Coordinator so that the hospital will be able to offer clinical trials for cancer patients.

Although the hospital declined to disclose the cost of the mural, Morley said it was funded by private donations to the Foundation and not by money raised by the walk.



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