Art Encounter's Evanston Mural Arts Program was l aunched in 2017 to expand our mission by bringing art to all in our local community. Led by Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris (recently interviewed in the Chicago Sun-Times ), EMAP has engaged 13 artists and produced 15 murals in partnership with business districts, schools, and community groups across Evanston in the last three years-and we have more to come in 2020!

We've had the pleasure of working with a number of exceptional artists in this program. During our time sheltering-at-home, we are happy to introduce you to some of them with our Minute with a Muralist series. Today, we bring you this interview with the wonderful and talented Cheri Lee Charlton .

Art Encounter: How did you get started doing murals? How long have you been painting them?

Cheri: Officially I’d consider myself to have 10 years of mural painting experience but I’ve been a painter for almost 20 years. I have a BFA and a MFA in painting, and when I moved to Chicago in 2007 after finishing school I was always looking for creative odd jobs to bring in extra money. I had some creative friends who liked my art style and were starting a salon in Logan Square called barbara&barbara and they invited me to paint a large scale mural in their space back in 2010. That was my first introduction to doing mural painting commercially. I’ve always loved painting large-scale work and typically used acrylic paint as my primary medium so it was a really easy transition once I got going.

Art Encounter: Can you tell us about your specific style? What influences are you pulling from, and what inspires your aesthetic?

Cheri: When I was in art school I was always a fan of illustration and design from the past. I was attracted to imagery that used dynamic lines and bright colors. I’ve especially always been interested in telling stories in my artwork. Artist like Arthur Rackham, William Morris, Mary Blair, and Wes Wilson are all big influences on me. I’d describe my own artwork as whimsical, bright, intricate, with lots of dynamic line. Outlining has always been my favorite in both my illustration and mural work. If I have a calling card for my own personal art style it’s my line work.  

Interview continues below.
Detail of Cheri's contribution to a collaborative mural project of regional bird species threatened by climate change, organized by Rogers Park's "Mile of Murals" in partnership with the Audubon Society in 2016. The "Mile of Murals" was managed by Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris prior to beginning Art Encounter's EMAP program.
Art Encounter: Of all the murals you have painted, do you have a favorite? What is it any why?

Cheri: My favorite mural has to have been a large scale Alice in Wonderland mural I did on the side of an old barn in Cleveland (pictured below) . It was the first really large piece I ever did, 20 ft. x 25 ft., and I completed it in 6 days. I loved this project for so many reasons. First, I got to illustrate a larger then life scene from one of my favorite classic books. Second, my father, one of my favorite humans, assisted me on the project and I got to spend a lot of time with him. My dad also happened to my client for that job and I love that he can look out onto his backyard and see my mural when he’s drinking his morning coffee.

Interview continues below.
The artist at work on an Alice in Wonderland Mural for her father's barn in Cleveland
Art Encounter : What is something you gained from the project you did with us, working on the Girl Scout mural on Lake Street? (pictured below)

Cheri : I learned a tremendous amount working on that project in regards to organization and problem solving from Lea and Dustin. Conceptually it was a challenge trying to create a 120-foot long image that told the history of a revered institution that was over a hundred years old and also represent the Girl Scouts of today. I learned a tremendous amount about educating and managing groups of children ranging in ages 5-17 to learn about mural painting and contribute to the actual execution of the final piece. I learned to be flexible and so, so, so much about trouble shooting issues of materials with things like weather, rain, and constantly leaking and crumbling concrete. 

Make sure to watch the time-lapse video below to see this mural in progress!
Detail of Cheri's 2018 mural celebrating 100 years of Girl Scouts on Lake Street in Evanston, organized by Art Encounter's Evanston Mural Arts Program and painted in partnership with 200 local Girl Scouts!
Art Encounter : What's next for you in your mural future?

Cheri : I’d love the chance to create a mural in a large public space for children. My favorite thing to draw is creatures both real and imaginary. So perhaps something that was both educational and provided me with an opportunity to paint large-scale animals that promoted themes of conservation or awareness. 
Thank you Cheri! Be sure to visit Cheri's  website  to see more of her beautiful illustrative murals. Cheri is slated to lead a youth mural mini-camp with Art Encounter at the Ridgeville Park District this summer: more information is here.

We are grateful to Blick Art Materials for support of our mural and outreach programs at Art Encounter.
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At Art Encounter, we believe that art has the power to help us better understand ourselves and the world around us. Everyone should have access to art, so we take people to art and bring art to people. Our mission is to educate, empower, and connect people of all ages and backgrounds through interactive encounters with art. We take members into artists’ studios and private collections, leading conversations that connect them with the art and with one another. Our outreach programs bring enriching art experiences to ten times as many, in the public schools and in senior residences. And our murals transform the walls and the lives of the whole community.