Homewood murals offer more than meets the eye
BY VERONICA HINKE Correspondent February 26, 2014 7:00PM
An image of Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld's dog, Nikki, is painted into the Dixie Service Station mural at Pete’s Auto Service, 18678 Dixie Highway in Homewood. | Photo courtesy of village of Homewood
Updated: February 27, 2014 2:17AM
Just before Thanksgiving, the last brushstrokes of paint dried on mural No. 14 in Homewood.
The painting, at 1940 Ridge Road, features trains, as an ode to the nearby station.
This latest work was one of three additional murals completed in the village in 2013 to round out the work that illusionist Richard Haas began contributing to the community in the 1980s.
Homewood has long held the record for the largest collection of Haas murals in the world. But to some, the storytelling value these aesthetically pleasing murals have brought to town might be even more interesting.
All of the murals offer a quaint, Americana feel and use the three-dimensional format known as trompe l’oeil, which translates to “to trick the eye.” But in some cases, there is more to them than meets the eye.
At Pete’s Auto Service, 18678 Dixie Highway, a likeness of Mayor Richard Hofeld’s black Labrador, Nikki, is painted into the mural, which was completed in July 2012.
“She was the sweetest, the most wonderful Lab,” Hofeld said.
Into the same mural, Haas also painted in his own father’s 1951 Nash.
“That was the ‘bubble back’ (design),” said Haas, who grew up in West Allis, Wis. and lives in New York City. “They were a major change in cardom when they first came out. My father was a proud Nash owner pretty much his whole life. I remember when he drove our whole family down to Kenosha so we could look at the new Nash through the fence.”
In the Dixie Diner mural, 18681 Dixie Highway, a 1950s bus is painted into the mural. Haas said it is very much like the one he rode, at 20, down Dixie Highway on his way from Milwaukee to Fort Riley, Kan., where he trained as an Army infantry officer.
Another pet, Marty and Kyle Arrivo’s dog, Indy, appears in the mural on the side of the building at 18604 Martin Ave., where, for 54 years, their family has operated Homewood Florist. The Arrivo family had to put Indy down on the night before they met with Haas in 2010 to discuss plans for the mural.
“He was a part of our family for 20 years. When we told Mr. Haas, he said if we sent him a photo, he would try to include Indy in the mural,” Marty Arrivo said.
The Homewood Florist mural gives the illusion of a greenhouse — with Indy eternalized in the forefront, standing with a bright red handkerchief tied around his neck.
“I watched as the man painted him,” Marty Arrivo said.
The painter, Tom Melvin, was a student of Haas’ at Bennington College in Vermont in the 1970s. He worked on the first Haas murals in Homewood in the 1980s. Those earlier works inspired this more recent continuation of Homewood’s urban renewal endeavor.
Melvin, a Chicago resident, became known as “the man in the red hat.”
“Homewood was one of those long-term projects in which one really gets to know people in town,” Melvin said. “Getting to know folks just makes it all the more special.”
The residents think the murals are pretty special, too. Colin and Angela Thomas, owners of Thomas’ Photographic Services, feature the murals as backdrops for locals commemorating proms, engagements and other special occasions. Two favorite settings are the Dixie Service Station mural and the movie theater mural at 18062 Dixie Highway.
Like all of the murals, they are an unusual peek at historical small-town America.
“The murals certainly are a tremendous opportunity for us to celebrate Homewood’s history — as well as the history of other small towns. Some of the murals are purely related to Homewood, while others — like some of those along the Dixie Highway — celebrate rural Illinois,” Homewood Historical Society president Jim Wright said.
The three murals completed in 2013 — at an estimated cost of $90,000 generated through a special taxing district — are at the South Suburban Family Shelter, 18137 Harwood Ave,; The American Dance Center, 1933 Ridge Road; and Expressions in Hair, 1940 Ridge Road.
While the latest commission is now complete, village officials hinted at a possibility for more.
“We certainly have more buildings that would benefit from Mr. Haas’s work,” said Rachael Jones, Homewood’s marketing and public relations manager.
Cafe Selmarie, a restaurant at 4729 N. Lincoln Ave. near Melvin’s studio in Chicago, will exhibit examples of his smaller-scale works through Feb. 24. For details, visit www.ThomasMelvin.com/index.html or www.CafeSelmarie.com.
Early Haas works are on display through March 16 as part of the multi-artist show “Inside the Artists’ Studios: Small-Scale Views,” at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn. For details, visit BruceMuseum.org/site/exhibitions_detail/inside-the-artists-studio-small-scale.