Street Artist Summit Held At Chicago Cultural Center

"Griffin" by Nick Fury. An homage to the tough-to-find shoe dye

“Griffin” by Nick Fury. An homage to the tough-to-find shoe dye

Get a bunch of artists together and they’re bound to talk about the tools of the trade. I assume it’s mundane stuff like how to select oil paints and brushes. Then you have street artists. A favorite topic of conversation: How to not get arrested.

Nick Fury

Nick Fury

Chicago street artists Nick Fury once favored stickers. Cops didn’t pay him much mind.

“If I have a pocket full of stickers, the police officer probably won’t notice it,” Fury said. “But if I’m carrying a magic marker, that could get their attention.”

Another medium favored by street artists was Griffin shoe dye.

“It’s almost impossible to remove,” Fury said, adding wistfully, “Now it’s banned in most of Chicago.”

I learned these oddities of the craft last Saturday morning at the Chicago Cultural Center during a presentation by some of the city’s best known—or perhaps most notorious—street artists. They have names like Traz, C3PO and Zor Zor Zor. Each artist had five minutes or so to explain why they chose this line of work, favorite venues and their inspiration.

Nick Fury loves to draw over CTA signs.

“Ninety-nine percent of my work is CTA-based,” Fury said. “It’s because of my love-hate relationship with the CTA.”

Rahmaan “Statik” Barnes

Rahmaan “Statik” Barnes

Lest you think street artists are urchins with a can of spray paint and a bad attitude, Nick Fury is far from that. He’s soft-spoken, had a wry sense of humor, and oh, yeah, a degree from the American Academy of Art and a BFA from Columbia College. He also studied at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Fury is a hired gun, with commissions from Calvin Klein, Givenchy, Oscar Meyer and Stolichnaya Vodka. He just happens to enjoy defacing CTA signs on occasion.

Muralist Rahmaan “Statik” Barnes draws his inspiration from the Baroque Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi o Amerighi da Caravaggio. Statik grew up in the south side of Chicago, where urban art and murals were plentiful. After being arrested for vandalism (an occupational hazard), he began working on a commission basis, and has produced more than 200 murals. One recent project provided him with the opportunity to work with high school students at Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park. Statik helped them create a mural at the entrance to the school.


The Entrance to Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park

The Entrance to Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at

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