One of the initiatives at Art Encounter that fulfills our mission of bringing art to people is our local mural program, also known as the Evanston Mural Arts Program . Launched in 2017 and led by Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris (recently interviewed in the Chicago Sun-Times ), the program has engaged 13 artists and produced 15 murals over the past three years in partnership with business districts, schools, and community groups.

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 over the next serveral weeks in our series Minute with a Muralist . Today, we bring you this interview with Chicago native, EMAP artist, and friend of Art Encounter, Ruben Aguirre .

Ruben at work on the mural "Parallel", 2018
Art Encounter : How did you get started doing murals? How long have you been painting them?

Ruben : My first introduction to public art was through graffiti. While that happened in a lot of different ways, one of them was through sanctioned graffiti murals. My first time using the spray can was 1995, but the first works that I would consider murals began in 1997. 

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

Ruben : I was really hooked on graffiti for a long time. But because it's such a repetitive practice, I started to get experimental with my process. The more I played with taking my graffiti apart, I eventually arrived at losing any trace of letters, and really got into the forms and color. That allowed me more freedom to experiment. The forms can take inspiration form almost anything. Common sources of inspiration are elements of nature, textiles, typography, and of course the architecture and location of the work itself. 

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"Drowning in the City" at the Wabash Arts Corridor in Chicago, 2016
Art Encounter : Of all the murals that you have painted, do you have a favorite? What is it and why?

Ruben : It's hard to settle on one favorite. I think there are murals where I have learned new things, or have achieved what I was hoping to, and those are stand outs for me. But that only lasts until the next moment like that. My mural in the Loop at Harrison and Wabash [pictured above] felt like an accomplishment that stands out. 

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"Weave X Wave", 2017, created in collaboration with Art Encounter's Evanston Mural Arts Program
Art Encounter : What is something you took from the project you did with us at the Dempster Street Metra wall in 2017? [pictured above]

Ruben : Prior to the Dempster piece, I was keeping a fine balance of negative space in my work. I decided to not do that this time, and allow the forms and shapes to pile up. Initially, I wasn't sure if it would be "too much", but I allowed it to happen, and ended up very satisfied with the outcome. There is a "busy balance" there that I wasn't sure I could achieve.

Art Encounter : What's next for you in your mural future?

Ruben : Up next is a multi-phase project in Downtown Evanston (with you)!

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"Tropical Blue", 2019
And last but not least: we made a video in 2017 about our mural program with WTTW producer Liz Reeves, where Ruben's project with us is featured!
Please enjoy by clicking the link to the video below.

Be sure to visit Ruben's website to see more of his incredible work, and look for his new downtown Evanston murals with Art Encounter in early summer 2020!

In the coming weeks, watch for more arts content, here and on social media. Find us on Instagram and Facebook to see more, and reach out to us to share what's inspiring you!

Stay safe.
Art Encounter  |

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.