Artist Maya in front of mural

Neighbors Magazine – A Plaza with Purpose

Putting art on our properties is a team effort, something we truly hope the community will appreciate and enjoy.” Edie Trott, Senior Marketing Director, NewMark Merrill Companies.  

Despite the fact that the state is now operating under the Phase 5: Illinois Restored banner, with all sectors of the economy reopened and businesses, schools, and recreation resuming normal operations with new safety guidance and procedures, some people may not be ready to venture out into crowds and congestion. In fact, they might actually be seeking some time to restore the momentum they lost and perhaps a local place where they can gather their thoughts and ready themselves for re-entry into the “new normal.”

Most area residents wouldn’t imagine that a company that owns more than 80 shopping centers in 100+ cities throughout California, Colorado and Illinois would be the catalyst for creativity and calm, inspiration and imagination but NewMark Merrill Companies, Inc., owners of Winston Plaza at 9th and North Avenue in Melrose Park, have made it a priority to bring larger-than-life murals to its properties, hoping to establish places to “gather and uplift” within the communities it serves. When Chairman and CEO Sandy Sigal made the community art program a priority,
Edie Trott, Senior Director of Marketing, took it to the next level, traveling extensively to their shopping centers, identifying the most viable areas and walls for murals and working with consultants to search out incredibly-talented local artists to conceive and create massive messages of post-pandemic hope and visual excitement.

“My own personal mantra has been to realize change through challenge,” reflected Trott. “Having launched the community art program before the pandemic, we could have never imagined the tremendous challenges all of us would face in the months ahead. Now, as we are able to forge on and complete this project, we are even more hopeful that the murals will resonate in some way with everyone in the community, that we have sparked imagination beyond all barriers—economic, social, emotional, any kind of barrier. The mission here is very simple: to enhance our common areas, make them an inviting place where community residents will want to sit, relax and make it part of their day, bringing some post-pandemic peace as well as motivation to move on.” For Tim Murphy, Senior Director of Marketing and Technology for NewMark Merrill, the community art project was simply meant to be. “For all of us within the company, this was a unique but logical step within our three-fold purpose: to always strive to improve our properties, support our tenants and appreciate our customers. I truly believe that these murals may even trigger an incredible moment in someone’s life, prompting unexpected feelings and even inspiration.”

The stories of the artists are as inspiring as the murals themselves: Shayne Taylor, who painted the “Beauty of Change” (Maya Angelou quote wall) believes that her art is the best way to communicate and share her vision and that bigger-than-life art brings color and happiness to everyone. “I’ve learned from art that you’re going to make mistakes and it’s okay.” Brett Whitacre, a former drummer, considers himself “lucky” to make a living doing what he loves. No one would guess that he is colorblind; his mural at the Best Buy store is a masterpiece of shades and juxtapositions. Felix Maldonado is self-taught street and graffiti artist who, over the last 25 years, rarely uses a paintbrush when he works. Much more confident with spray paint, Felix’s works amaze clients and command attention from people across the country. A graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago, he brings relentless passion and enthusiasm to every project he undertakes. Pictured above, the mural painted by Brett Whitacre at Winston Plaza in Melrose Park

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