Over a decade ago I was hired to do some mural projects on the viaducts opposite the with the children who lived Hephzibah Childrens Home. I realized that if I could do childrens murals on the viaducts why not try to create something of my own. I requested permission from the village and prepped three cement viaduct panels near the intersection of a busy street in Oak Park, thinking if nothing else at least I might attract some attention and get more work. I painted a mural that featured three heads based on some of my own paintings. The plan was to eventually paint at least seven more if the village would subsidize it. The seven other portraits never materialized but the original three remained and slowly aged.
A couple years ago the village began to commission artists to create murals on other viaduct panels and I was fortunate enough to add two to the collection. Meanwhile I would see my original three heads looking more and more forlorn as the colors faded. I had asked periodically about funding for restoring the mural but nothing ever came of it. Finally on an impulse I decided to act once again on my own. I called for permission to work on the three heads, since the expense of time and materials were my own, there was no objection.
I spent about three full very hot days modifying, repainting and throwing new colors at the images. In short they were brought very vibrantly back to life. But not only that, they took on a whole new significance do to my acquaintance with a man named Mike, who strolled up to me as I was working. Mike confided in me that he not only was homeless, but ‘mentally retarded.’ He also said, in addition to really liking the mural, that he had never painted before and asked me if there was anything he could work on. I looked around for something he could help me with and decided that he could paint in some accent lines for me. He worked very carefully and was very conscientious about not making mistakes which I assured him would not be a problem because it was only paint, and paint could always be painted over. We worked together for a bit before I finished for the day. And then he asked what we were doing the next day. I arrived very early in the morning in order to avoid the worst of the heat and just as I was finishing up Mike arrived. There were a few sections that I had intentionally left unfinished in order to let him complete them which he did. It was fitting that he finished up just as I was putting the finishing touches on the title that I was painting on the mural. I called the newly restored heads ‘The Three Mikes.’ Mike was so proud to see his name inscribed that he flagged down a number of passersby to make sure they didn’t miss the connection. And I helped too.
It is a great ending to well deserved adventure.