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Peer into the Pier People Mural

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April 2, 2015

The reimagination of Navy Pier has inspired many changes – both indoors and out. If you’ve taken a stroll through the new food experience, you have probably seen two artists – Pete Nawara and Michael Pasier – hard at work painting what is known as the Pier People mural, a celebration of the diversity represented by the millions of locals and tourists that walk the Pier each year. Having partnered on previous projects, Nawara and Pasier felt up to the task of creating such a powerful and interpersonal piece of art.

It started out as a simple concept. For artist Nawara, the mural was always about using the Pier’s events and the people that attend as “subject-sourcing” for this creative endeavor. There was no better place to source the culturally-diverse guests of the Pier than at Neighborhoods of the World, so Nawara set up shop each Sunday to take pictures of anyone willing to participate.

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After taking thousands of pictures of potential subjects, the photographs are taken through an intense process of breaking down, editing, and processing until they are ready to be projected onto the Pier walls. Once projected, the subjects are traced and then painted with acrylic paint. Pasier explained, “Think paint by numbers…but without the numbers.” It sounds simple, but deciding who to feature on the wall and then depicting these individuals’ personalities is a huge undertaking – one that the artists have been eager to accomplish.

image6The time it takes to complete each figure depends on the complexity and detail of the subject and his or her outfit, especially since Nawara and Pasier have never painted the traditional costumes that some Neighborhoods of the World participants wear to represent their cultures. Capturing the personality and intricacies of each subject and what he or she represents has been incredibly important to the artists and to the Pier People concept as a whole. 

You’ll see the artists most days tracing, painting, and speaking with Pier visitors – they love to answer questions and get feedback from passersby. “It’s really important to let people in on the process,” stated Nawara. In fact, Pasier even noted that “the process has really become its own attraction.” The artists especially enjoy when children take a liking to the mural, because they hope to inspire a new generation of artists.

It isn’t just the visitors who enjoy stopping by and observing the progress, but the Navy Pier employees have taken a strong interest as well. If you have taken a walk past their work, it is no surprise as to why everyone has become enraptured by the project. Each figure tells its own story, but also adds to the celebration of cultures and diversity as a whole. We encourage you to keep tabs on the progress and look out for details about the finished project!

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