Artist David Lee Csicsko Lends Graphic Talents to Benefit Healthcare Heroes
By GINNY VAN ALYEA
David Lee Csicsko, an internationally recognized and celebrated designer and artist currently living and working in Chicago, has engaged in a wide variety of projects at nearly every scale during his 30 year career; from small privately commissioned prints to to his more recent explorations of the possibilities inherent in working with stained glass and mosaics at large scales. These monumental projects have included work for hospitals, universities, elementary schools, churches, and various private homes. He was even one of the artists who designed the Obama White House for Christmas in 2012.
This weekend his artistic touch is about to be all over another special event, the first-ever virtual Scottish Highland Games to benefit the oldest nonprofit in Illinois, the Chicago Scots. And for the past few unusual months, he's been making his distinctively colorful, graphic portraits available to the public in the name of a good cause through the sale of specially editioned, and hotly anticipated, history-themed t-shirts, masks, and more.
Csicsko has been working with the Chicago Scots since the spring to support staff and residents of the organization's Caledonia Senior Living in suburban North Riverside, a noble effort considering how severely senior care facilities have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
In March in the early weeks of lockdown, while working on a design for the Chicago Scots to celebrate Tartan Day, which was coming up on April 6, Csicsko asked friend and Chicago Scots president Gus Noble, what/whom he thought Csicsko should feature in the design. Noble suggested featuring Scottish King Robert the Bruce (remember Bravehart?), since 2020 marked the 700th anniversary of Robert's signing of the Declaration of Arbroath (asserting Scottish independence from the English on April 6, 1320). When Csicsko asked how things were going at Caledonia Senior Living because of the virus, Noble responded that the campus was in an advanced state of lockdown, but that residents and staff were holding up very well due to the work of Caledonia's incredible staff. "They are heroes," Noble said. To recognize that heroism in the face of COVID-19’s challenges, Chicago Scots had begun to raise much needed funds to buy PPE, as well as to give each member of the team hero pay, meals, treats, and groceries to save trips to the store – anything to support these frontline workers and to encourage them for the lives they were protecting, especially when many of the elderly residents were cut off from visiting family members.
Csicsko has designed popular t-shirts and products for Chicago's Fine Art and Classical radio WFMT's fundraisers in the past, so Csicsko and Noble decided to team up to expand the ways in which funds could be raised for Caledonia's staff, they decided to call it “Heroes for Heroes”, incorporating the Tartan Day design for t-shirts, face masks, mugs and other items featuring Robert the Bruce to support Caledonia's heroes. The campaign expanded to do limited releases each month and to add new designs as well as celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Chicago Scots this year. Now Chicago Scots features a different Scottish Hero each month. April’s hero was the Bruce, May’s was Mary Queen of Scots and, like his Red Red Rose that’s “newly sprung in June,” June's hero was the bard Robert Burns. July's hero was Neil Armstrong (in keeping with the society's mission that all they welcome everyone who is Scottish by birth, by heritage or simply by inclination, as Armstrong was American with Scottish heritage.) August is yet to be revealed.
Noble says they have some terrific Scottish heroes waiting in the wings to make their appearance in the months ahead, and fans of Csicsko's work as well as the Chicago Scots have indeed been collecting the eagerly awaited new releases each month as well as guessing which ones will be next.
Csicsko says he likes to work in a series, "I love when I can dig in and explore the subjects, from composer portraits, architect portraits, people in science and now important historical figures from Scotland. I love doing visual research, and adding accessible symbols to help tell more of the story."
To begin he says he first does a quick pencil sketch and then draws on the computer. For him, "It's very satisfying to take a historic figure and make them become relevant to today's audience. With all the Scottish Heroes, it's fun to add a tartan when ever possible. I mean, why not?"
Csicsko's designs are helping to make tartan go beyond its standard association with Christmas time and tourists. Csicsko's aesthetic and striking use of color and pattern is distinctive, and each project he engages in is entirely unique. Through his work, Csicsko celebrates the diversity and richness of the human imagination, and expresses the joys of life through his dynamic use of color, bold graphics and playful patterns. Lending his talents to this latest project is just one more way, among many, he supports a greater need in a way that spreads joy and color through art.
The COVID-19 challenges are significant but Csicsko has stayed busy, and he is thinking of others as well as new ventures. On Facebook he is currently making new free, shareable coloring pages. As of July he had over 150 original new pages.
And he's also designing a line of smart looking masks.
In addition to his fine art, David's projects include creating the mosaics at the Belmont 'L' station, designing the Obama White House for Christmas, illustrating the much loved children's book 'The Skin You Live In'. His designs for the fun, reusable shopping bags for Mariano's have become collected and spotted around the world. He has had exhibits LUMA Loyola's Museum of Art, and the Alliance Française de Chicago. His output ranges from the Chapel stained glass windows at the Robert and Anne Lurie Chicago Children's Hospital, to windows for colleges and churches. Mr Csicsko has as volunteer created graphics for the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts and Groceryland a Charity Food Source for the needy.
To purchase an item to support Caledonia House click here (deadline: July 31 for July's Hero)
To learn about Chicago Scots click here