A rubber duck atop a moss-flooded skull. An aqua colored owl. A woman with bunny ears and no mouth. What appears to be the Disney character, Pluto, or is it Goofy? — with a robot head in its mouth. And a purple frog holding a cheeseburger that has eyes and a mouth.
You probably wouldn’t guess that the brick building near Grand and Chicago Avenues that all of the above is painted on is the headquarters of aircraft parts company Setna iO.
The building is flooded with murals. Many of them ask for an explanation: What is it? Others nod to the aviation industry, with their cartoonish characters wearing aviator goggles flying around in small planes.
The outdoor art is the result of a chance encounter during the 2020 civil unrest between David Chaimovitz, the chief executive of the aircraft parts company, and the passing street artist bird’s milk.
“I was on Division Street, and there was a peaceful protest and tons of people were there, and I see these guys painting all the boarded up windows,” Chaimovitz says. “They made lemonade with lemons. So I went up to them and said, “That’s super cool. I have a business. I’ve always wanted to have murals. ”
Bird Milk says, “David came up to me while I was painting another mural and asked me to paint his building. Then I just contacted friends to see who wanted to paint.
“We had fun painting with all these amazing artists,” he says.
Chaimovitz says he gave free rein to the artists, saying, “If you can get aviation into it, that’s cool. Otherwise, that’s also cool. Come have fun and make the city more beautiful.
Many of those who painted the walls of the West Side business were seasoned street artists. But it was the first outdoor mural project for James Eastwood, a tattoo artist.
“I had asked my friend Chris” – the passing street performer Killabunz and who participated in the West Side mural project — “to let me know if he ever had free space on a wall because I wanted to do a mural,” Eastwood says.
“I didn’t know what to paint, and Chris suggested I do a rubber duck and a skull because I’m a tattoo artist, so of course I dig skulls,” Eastwood explains. “But I also have a small collection of rubber duckies that started out as gifts that were a bit of a joke from a friend of mine.”
“It was my first mural,” says Eastwood.
Jeff Pack, who was one of the most experienced muralists involved in the project, painted a blue and pink wolf that stands upright with its arms crossed, tongue sticking out, a patch covering one eye.
The creature appears next to a cartoonish girl who seems dazzled by candies and a rainbow in a work by the artist KOZMO, who says it’s “my interpretation” of the animated character Princess Bubblegum.
Pak says “the wolf I painted was sort of a badass I wanted to paint as opposed to the cuteness of Princess Bubblegum. Tough, cool, hard-on wolf dude.
Although the building is now pretty well covered in artwork, “we keep adding to it over time and as I meet more and more artists,” says Chaimovitz, noting that a passing Thai artist Alex Face did a mural there recently.