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6 MIN READ - The mural, by Chicago artist Dwight White, pays homage to Loop-wide workers who won the organization’s neighborhood-wide Loop Employee of the Month awards.
As part of Chicago Loop Alliance’s Loop Employee of the Month program—which honors a different Loop worker each month for being great at what they do, contributing to their community, and inspiring those around them—a mural honoring the Loop workforce has been installed downtown. The mural, by Chicago artist Dwight White, incorporates symbols that represent Loop Employee of the Month award winners from March 2019-February 2020. It is located at 40 W. Ida B. Wells Drive and was completed Oct. 26.
“Chicago is the city that works, and the Loop is at the center of Chicago’s powerful workforce,” said Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards. “We would like to recognize the 370,000 Loop workers who contribute their heart, talent and tenacity to their job each day. COVID-19 has put a strain on workers—whether furloughed or laid off, working from home, or deemed essential. There has never been a more important time to honor the workers who make the central business district great. They are paramount to the survival of downtown’s storefront economy, and we look forward to welcoming more of them back to work in the Loop.”
“This mural is a fantastic representation of the Loop workforce,” said Chicago Loop Alliance Marketing Director Kiana DiStasi. “The Loop Employee of the Month winners referenced in this mural represent office workers, government employees, small business owners, hospitality professionals, non-profit powerhouses and more. They come together in the Loop from all across the city, just like the larger Loop workforce. This mingling of Chicagoans is why we call the Loop Everyone’s Neighborhood, and we can’t think of a better time than now to offer something beautiful in their honor.”
“When first approached in March, I was excited that Chicago Loop Alliance chose to honor the winners with a large public display of art in this high traffic area of the city,” said Dwight White. “I loved the design process as I was challenged to creatively weave a tribute to each winner into the artwork. You will see that each element of the mural has a significant meaning. After the global pandemic and months of quarantine, I believe this mural will have an even greater impact and meaning to all who work in the Loop.”
In addition to placing their first names on the stars at the top left corner of the mural, White read the stories of the Loop Employee of the Month winners and came up with the following symbols to represent each winner in the mural.
- Belissa Bella Suloski, healthcare mediator with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office - Starting with the woman subject in the piece: She's a mystery but a miracle. She is fairly hidden but still the primary focal point. This represents the work she does daily to have great impact on people's lives, but often receives little recognition for what deserves so much more.
- Pradip Nayak, owner of Sunshine Infinity, Inc. – He knows he is making his family in India proud by being recognized. The small, colorful circles symbolize confetti, representing his celebration right here in Chicago.
- Beatriz Jara, events director for ROOF on theWit – She has an eye for using floral and beautiful design elements in her curation process. One of her most special moments is when her team surprised her with 100 roses, so the flowers in the mural are for her.
- Robert Middlekauff, data visualization manager at Lumere and founder of the Illinois chapter of FairVote – has a great mind for tech but is inspired by purposeful innovation. His key to success is all about energy and sustainability. The lightning bolt and recycling sign represent what he aims to deliver in his role.
- Malik Gillani, co-founder and executive director of Silk Road Rising – Malik said, “All roads lead to the Loop.” It seemed fitting that the text of the mural would come straight from the storyteller of the group.
- Michael Love, security lead at Joffrey Tower – He has a special role that is all about uplifting those he interacts with on a daily basis. His kind spirit, big heart and bigger smile keep happy feelings in the air surrounding the ballet. Balloons represent his purpose of uplifting the youth.
- Stephanie Sanchez, manager at Land & Lake Kitchen and managing partner with LM Restaurant Group, and Jerome Pickens, houseperson at DoubleTree Hotel – The inspiration from these two is in their respect for their industries and their desire to give back to their local communities. The text “community” was inspired by them.
- Gwendolyn Matthews, sales associate for Carpe Librum – Everyone's favorite auntie—always looking to nurture her team and people who come to view books at the store. There are plenty of books present in the mural, and it’s fitting that the mural location is next door to the Harold Washington Library.
- Dina Fenili Niekamp, director of sales and marketing at the Kimpton Gray Hotel – The incredible thing about Dina is she worked hard to reach the current position she’s in. She comes from a boots-on-the-ground role of opening new hotels, and she still has her work boots to prove it. Showing love to workers who don’t have the “sexy” roles in the Loop is important. The hard hat was included to show love to the folks getting down and dirty to keep this city going.
- Kathy Bliss, assistant to the CEO of the Auditorium Theatre – Kathy has earned her respect in the industry and among her peers by just being great. She's an assistant to the CEO but seems to lead just about everyone as she rapidly climbed the ladder at the theatre. She's on top and chillin', doing her role with ease and making time to fuel the community youth as well. She sounds like a queen, so she’s represented by a crown in the mural.
- Marion Batey, business relations specialist for the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership – She is creating jobs by breaking down barriers between employers and potential candidates. She truly deserves a key to the city for all the doors she is unlocking for people. She’s a provider who’s piecing together the future for those headed into their next chapter.
“Having a unique symbol on the new mural representing my Chicago Loop Employee of the Month honor is special to me because it also symbolizes my 20 years of working in the Loop,” said Kathy Bliss, who is now working for Roosevelt University. “To fellow honorees and to all Chicago Loop workers, as we enjoy the new installation, let’s continue to celebrate the many reasons we love working in the center of this great, vibrant, bustling city with its rich and acclaimed history, as we anxiously await its full reopening.”
"My husband, Malik Gillani suffered a heart attack and stroke; his expressive capacities are temporarily impaired, so he asked me to write this statement for him,” said Jamil Khoury, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Artistic Director for Silk Road Rising. “For 18 years, Malik has been working tirelessly at expanding the American story to include Asian, Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans. As someone who creates, produces and lives in the Loop, Malik understands intuitively that this neighborhood is ‘Everyone's Neighborhood.’ It's where a Brown, Queer, Muslim, disabled, immigrant man can build a nationally recognized arts organization, and give voice to the voiceless, even while struggling to recover his own voice."
The Loop Employee of the Month program is ongoing. Every winner receives a $1,000 prize package from Loop businesses, a professional photo shoot, and an article on LoopChicago.com. Nominate yourself, a co-worker or anyone who works in the Loop and is great at what they do, contributes to their community or inspires those around them. Nominees need only be at least 16 years of age and work in the Chicago Loop. The Loop boundaries are the Chicago River to the north and west, Ida B. Wells Drive on the south and Lake Michigan on the east.
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