Tony Fitzpatrick Creates His Largest Ever Mural For Steppenwolf Theatre – Says It's His Last in Chicago
By CGN Staff via PR
Most theaters around the world have been dark for much of the past year. Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theater Company’s, like many other local theaters, is slowly coming back online once again, welcoming patrons through their doors to enjoy award-winning theater.
The theater shared a major announcement that no matter what the status of the theater's operating hours, art will still be prominently on view from the street, 24/7, thanks to a new, massive public mural by celebrated Chicago-based artist and actor Tony Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has created a vibrant, expansive mural for the exterior of Steppenwolf's new Arts and Education Center at 1646 N. Halsted in Lincoln Park. Commissioned by Steppenwolf as a highly visible public art installation for the southwest wall adjacent to the Center, “Night and Day in the Garden of All Other Ecstasies” is, at 12-foot-high by 76-foot-long, Fitzpatrick’s largest work to date and his first outdoor mural.
The new work pays homage to the leadership of the company’s former artistic director Martha Lavey, highlighting the evolution of the company over its four decades and the thrilling future as it opens the doors of its new theater building and education center. Steppenwolf is proud to be joining the ranks of esteemed institutions that are home to Fitzpatrick’s art including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art (New York City); The Art Institute of Chicago and Old Town School of Folk Music; the Museum of Contemporary Art (Miami) and the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C.).
Fitzpatrick shares, “I think of the long and luminous history of Steppenwolf like a garden; every year more color, more thorns, more blooming wonder and more and more seeds planted. The beauty of a garden is the promise it contains—that next year it will be even more unexpectedly luminous and full of wonder and truth.”
He goes on to explain his personal connection to Steppenwolf and this project. “This mural is meant to honor Martha Lavey, who was one of my mentors. This company was her garden, and she was the gardener. Spirits like Martha come along maybe once every couple of generations. She was entirely and only like herself, much like this great company.”
As Fitzpatrick aims to walk away from institutional exhibitions and pursue more personal artistic endeavors, he adds: “This is my final public artwork for the City of Chicago; I wanted to leave something lasting, life affirming and positive.” He also shared with CGN that he and artist collaborator Danny Torres are planning other murals elsewhere, both around the country and the world.
Steppenwolf Theatre Executive Director E. Brooke Flanagan adds, “Steppenwolf’s new Arts and Education Center was designed specifically to contribute to the City of Chicago, not only through the addition of our first-ever dedicated education space, The Loft, but also via this monumental new public art installation that will no doubt provide joy to all who pass by. This mural beautifully symbolizes the Company’s past roots and future growth.”
Fabricated on ceramic porcelain tiles, “Night and Day in the Garden of All Other Ecstasies” was designed by Fitzpatrick over a period of several years and then painstakingly digitized by Danny Torres, his frequent collaborator (and partner in the new public art initiative, Fitzpatrick/Torres Humboldt Caballo). The boldly colored mural is comprised of eight themed vertical panels, encompassing dozens of four-foot square tiles digitally printed in Bologna, Italy by the artisans of Imola Ceramica. The installation process is expected to be completed within a week.
About the Artist
Tony Fitzpatrick's early artistic career focused primarily on multi-colored drawings on slate, followed by printmaking and now his focus is producing mixed media "drawing/collages." Fitzpatrick's drawing/collages often blend central cartoon-like drawings, found images and ephemera such as baseball cards and matchbooks, and poetic or narrative text. His main subjects have been Chicago and memories of his father, although more recent subjects have included Paris and birds. He is influenced by Chicago street culture, cities he has traveled to, children’s books, tattoo designs and folk art. Fellow Chicago artist Ed Paschke once described his work as "autobiographical," saying that "it's in the true spirit of what art is all about. It is an extension of him."
About Steppenwolf’s New Arts and Education Center at 1646 N. Halsted Street
Designed by world-renowned architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and London-based theater design team Charcoalblue, Steppenwolf’s new Arts and Education Center is a 50,000 sq. ft. building featuring an innovative 400-seat Round Theater only six rows deep—the only one of its kind in Chicago; a dedicated education floor, tripling the reach and impact of Steppenwolf’s nationally recognized education work; a bright and open two-story atrium lobby, a wine bar and a sidewalk lounge, increasing the social gathering spaces where artists and audiences converge.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company is a Chicago theater that is home to America’s ensemble. The company began performing in the mid-1970s in the basement of a Highland Park, IL church—today Steppenwolf is the nation’s premier ensemble theater with more than 50 members who are among the top actors, playwrights and directors in the field.