Raw footage for "Chicago Slices," a series about everyday life in Chicago. This video features interviews with graffiti artists Anthony Lewellen, Chris Feverstein, Jesus Rodriquez, Castillo Perez, and Greg Penrice. These five young men created a large mural called "Uriginal Flavor" as part of a contest sponsored by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). They display their artwork, which was chosen as the winning piece, in Logan Square and meet with media representatives at the press conference highlighting the contest. They discuss their artwork, the meaning behind it, techniques they use, and the process of creating graffiti art.
00:00Copy video clip URL Kids playing basketball in the park.
04:00Copy video clip URL Walking upstairs with graffiti artist Anthony Lewellen to his apartment, where he lives with his mom and brother.
05:10Copy video clip URL Interviewer Tobi Johnson asks him about the upcoming press conference and his concerns. Lewellen says that people make assumptions about graffiti being associated with gangs and violence, but there is another, artistic, side to graffiti.
06:26Copy video clip URL Lewellen says he started doing graffiti art in 1989, but even before that, he was into drawing and artwork. He says that now, at age 21, he paints walls, but he shies away from questions about getting permission. He says that he does most of his work on his own, but he enjoys working with other artists as well. He cites the CTA project as one that he particularly enjoyed, and goes on to talk about how that project was started.
10:12Copy video clip URL Johnson and Lewellen discuss the press and the opportunity to educate the public on what graffiti art is all about. Lewellen says that the message he tries to convey is self-enlightenment and doing what makes you happy in order to be fulfilled in life. Johnson points out the artwork on the wall, and Lewellen says he painted it in high school.
13:25Copy video clip URL Lewellen opens his sketchbook and flips through it, showing some of his pieces. He explains that he’s always sketching, but that when he does graffiti he generally does not sketch it out first. He credits his art teacher, Miriam Sokolov, for inspiring him, being open-minded, and believing in art and in kids like him. He calls graffiti the “youngest, truest art form.”
16:40Copy video clip URL Johnson asks if working on the CTA project “cramped his style.” Lewellen explains that the contest was pretty open; the only restrictions were that they could not use violent themes or anything inappropriate, which was not a problem for him. He comments on the misconceptions that people have about graffiti art being associated with gangs and violence, and says that the CTA contest was great because the CTA supplied the walls and the paint. Lewellen also comments on how nervous he was about coming up with something great, but then the process took over and he realized that they he just needed to be himself and do what he loves to do and the rest fell into place.
19:15Copy video clip URL Lewellen says that most people have a unique style, and that he can tell who produced a new art piece when he sees it. He also lists the vocabulary of graffiti artists, explaining words like tagging, biting, piecing, etc.
22:00Copy video clip URL Johnson asks if Lewellen considers himself part of hip hop culture. He explains that while hip hop and graffiti have gone hand-in-hand, you do not have to fall into the stereotype of doing both. He advises people to stay true to themselves.
23:18Copy video clip URL Heading into his room, Lewellen shows the “winning wall,” a series of photographs of the CTA contest that they won. He says he gets inspiration from life around him, and then shows photos of his old room, where he had painted his bedroom wall.
25:55Copy video clip URL Walking outside, they go to see the actual wall that Lewellen and his friends painted for the CTA contest, and won. The wall surrounds the CTA bus stop at Kedzie and Milwaukee, which is also the Logan Square Blue Line stop. Lewellen talks about the process of creating the piece. Johnson asks more specifically about how they blend the shades and colors and Lewellen responds by talking about the different caps you can use on the spray paint bottles, but says that you can do mostly what you want using a “knee cap.” He says it’s cool that five different people with different styles came together, calling it one of the favorite pieces he’s ever seen. He points out the cat that he painted, and then shows the self portraits that they all painted, rather than tagging their names to sign the piece.
35:06Copy video clip URL Johnson talks about the diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds of the people who paint with him. He goes on to talk about how some graffiti artists “act all tough” and paint guns, other violent things, or naked girls, but that this is not how graffiti art has to be. He says that it’s cool to do something “nice and peaceful and cool.” He says that the piece is called “Uriginal Flavor” and explains how they came up with the name. He says that he’s looking forward to painting the Marshall Field’s wall and working in a group project again.
36:53Copy video clip URL Lewellen and Johnson spot his friend Chris Feverstein across from the CTA stop and call him over. Feverstein explains that his self-given nickname is “Deep” and talks about why he gave himself that name. He and Lewellen say that they found out about the CTA contest through a friend who was contacted by the CTA and the “Vandal Squad” of the Chicago Police Department. He says that his friends, fine artists, cartoon artists, and the world around him inspire his work. He points out the things he painted on the wall, and then shows his self portrait. While standing in front of his art, Feverstein talks about the message of peace and unity that he tries to convey in his work.
42:35Copy video clip URL Feverstein spots two more of their friends behind the bus and they call them over. Jesus Rodriguez and Castillo “Craze” Perez introduce themselves and say they’re also part of the mural project. Rodriguez talks about graffiti being cool because a lot of people see the work, and shows the art that he contributed to the mural. He says that he’s been doing graffiti since 1991 and that he likes doing big projects like this. He calls the work “tranquil and relaxed.”
47:04Copy video clip URL The camera cuts to Rodriguez standing in front of his self-portrait. He says that graffiti has evolved and needs to make a new transition because it all starts looking the same and loses its meaning.
49:32Copy video clip URL The camera cuts to the four artists looking at photos of their artwork in Logan Square. A crowd of people and reporters start to form as the press conference starts coming together.
53:30Copy video clip URL A woman from CTA talks about the beginning of the project, and how she advocated for these young men to get walls for them to work on their art. She calls it an amazing example of racial harmony and people coming together, and says that she felt proud of how they have worked together. She explains that they made an 8-minute video, “Make a Change,” and are bringing it into schools to encourage young graffiti artists to do their work in a responsible way. She lists the prizes that the CTA is giving to award the best artists, including a scholarship to the American Academy of Art and the opportunity to do a mural for Marshall Field’s.
58:43Copy video clip URL Bob Elcaster, president of CTA, stands in a business suit in front of the mural, and speaks about how bringing 70 young people together on a weekend to do this work was incredibly positive. He says that the art is amazing, and “If I could lift it off the wall, I’d buy it.” He says that the money that is spent to clean up CTA property from vandalism is a waste.
01:02:49Copy video clip URL They all stand in front of the wall for a photo opportunity. She gives them each a coupon for CTA tokens, and they say that Rodriguez received the scholarship to the American Academy of Art. The other three artists explain that they chose to let him have it because he was already attending the school, and he needed and deserved the scholarship.
01:08:05Copy video clip URL Greg Penrice, the fifth member of the crew, introduces himself and says that he got into graffiti through his interest in hip hop. He says that he liked the CTA project because they were allowed to do it and that the paint was free.
01:09:45Copy video clip URL Penrice stands in front of his self portrait. He denies that he has a nickname, laughing. Perez stands in front his self portrait, as well. Perez says he doesn’t get into tagging, but has been more into the art. He says he kind of figured it out on his own, and that he’s been doing this for about a year now. He says that murals like this bring out the community flavor and bring the community a unique characteristic. He explains that spray painting is “tougher” than more traditional art.
01:14:30Copy video clip URL Penrice and Perez show the lettering that displays that title of the piece, “Uriginal Flavor.” They go into the details of how the actually layer the paint and the techniques of making the art. They say that they had a color scheme, but changed it and then got yelled at by the boss, Feverstein. They talk about the process of making decisions together, such as choosing colors.
01:19:20Copy video clip URL All the artists say their names on camera. Another graffiti artist joins in and says that these five deserved to win the competition because it really was the best. He says that it’s “weird” that the CTA would give them 200 cans of paint and permission to paint even though they are usually “bombing” their trains. Another artist and friend joins him in saying that it’s pretty cool that the “people we’re doing bad stuff to are helping us out.”
01:24:00Copy video clip URL Penrice explains his piece of the mural, pointing out the symbolism of his character. The CTA representative congratulates them and plans their work with Marshall Field’s.
01:27:20Copy video clip URL Feverstein tells how he was making an appeal to get the leftover paint, and the artists joke about it. They all stand in front of their self portraits for another photo opportunity.
01:29:53Copy video clip URL The competing graffiti artist tells a story about how they were arrested for no apparent reason, and how they were made to scrub the floor in the courtroom the day they appeared in court. A few other bystanders comment on the wall, followed by shots of the crew walking away.
01:32:19Copy video clip URL End of tape.