Artist Rahmaan Statik in front of his mural featuring chef Jose Andres on an exterior wall of the Montessori School of Englewood on May 14, 2020.(Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)
Since the pandemic closed schools in Chicago, chefs and nonprofit groups have been making sure children still get a warm meal.
Now a South Side artist is honoring their efforts with a mural on the red brick wall of the Montessori School of Englewood, which has served as a site for free food pickup for families, nearly 6,000 meals and counting. The mural spotlights Jose Andres, a chef at World Central Kitchen that has helped put together the meals.
“It’s almost like a time capsule for 2020,” said artist Rahmaan Statik. “This is how people reacted. People actually stood up to actually fight for the survival of their community right there during dire times.”
In a corner of the mural is the phrase “be your higher self,'' a message that appears often in Statik’s work. His friend Howard Bailey, a former restaurant owner, teamed up with Statik a year ago to turn the phrase into an art movement, inspiring kids to use their creative talents to improve their community.
A mural featuring chef Jose Andres on the wall of the Montessori School of Englewood painted by Rahmaan Statik.(Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)
While their primary focus is promoting the arts, Bailey said he decided to use his culinary background to provide meals to people on the South Side. He began raising money and was contacted by the Montessori school.
“About a week into it, I got a call from the president of the Montessori school (who) said that they had 32 transitional homeless families that he needed to take care of,” Bailey said.
Bailey contacted the Trotter Project — named after famed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter — and World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded by chef Jose Andres to provide meals to disaster-stricken areas. “It’s been a beautiful ecosystem of people working together to make sure that other people are fed,” Bailey said.
Artists have been painting murals in the city’s medical district to honor doctors and nurses. So Bailey and Statik decided they wanted to do something to celebrate the workers providing meals to communities in need.
Statik’s mural, on the side of the school, features Andres holding a bundle of produce. Behind him are people assembling meals like the ones families pick up each day. Above is the signature phrase: “Be your higher self.”
“Art is any form of creativity and building,” Statik said. “I’m a painter, so that’s my angle of doing art, but chef Andres is also a culinary artist. He uses his culinary arts skills to better society.”
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