Sometimes Western Springs chef Suzanne Florek gets the call from someone standing in front of her 10-foot tall image on a Chicago Midway International Airport wall; sometimes it comes up later. The question, however, is usually the same: what on earth?
“It’s a lot of fun,” Florek admitted. “It always catches me by surprise—I’ll be at a cocktail party, and somebody will say, ‘hey, I saw you on that mural! How did you end up there?’”
The mural in question is from a colorful set installed along the CTA Walkway by Folio, the Village-based company of fellow resident Bruce Vogele, in October 2011. Those murals recently earned Vogele a Chicago Bronze Quill Award from the International Association of Business Communicators, which cited the warm response the artwork has received from both travelers and Midway employees.
On the walls, colorful spotlight-shaped beams cascade over famous Chicago architecture and the word “Chicago” in a thin sans-serif, while a few select personages rise among the buildings: a blues guitarist, a cyclist and the aforementioned chef. (Vogele’s nephew Ad Vogele contributed the design, with people photography by Eric Herzog and production from the studio Dr. Graphx.)
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The purpose of the murals? “To brighten up the walkway—to create a pleasant experience for the people walking by,” Vogele said. “But there’s also the inspiration to promote the city of Chicago. The idea is to create a dynamic image where the people are larger than life so that the city isn’t just about the famous buildings and architecture—it’s the people in them.
“It’s totally to brighten and energize people as they’re walking this long walk. It gives them a boost!”
So how exactly did Suzanne Florek begin her side career as a model? Simple: she’s a client of Vogele’s, as are the numerous local and Chicago-based businesses of residents who entrust Folio to make their branding, well, look cool. Vogele wanted a chef, and Florek fit the bill.
And not only are the chef and art director from Western Springs, so is the cyclist (the sleeve of his in-mural shirt even prominently reads “Tower Racing!”) Doug Withington is the husband of Vogele’s business partner and marketing specialist, Jennifer Withington, who brought both Doug and Suzanne to their photo shoot.
“They really needed to beautify the space,” Jennifer Withington said of the walkway, which connects Midway to the Orange Line and its parking garage, and through which an estimated nearly 3,000,000 people pass each year. “The space was kind of boring and white and stark, and people were travelling through it, and now it just looks so much better.”
The third persona featured in the mural is modestly-famed Chicago blues guitarist Melvin Taylor, whose inclusion has even motivated some hardcore blues fans to make a special pilgrimage to the walkway just to check out the mural.
Vogele landed the opportunity to do the design through his longtime work with Standard Parking, which manages the Midway garage (and the walkway.) Parking garages are just some of the many of places Folio’s designs have appeared, also including cosmetic packaging, safety signs, websites, displays, online advertizing and much more.
“The one thing Folio does well is make people look good,” Withington said.
“People want to be cool,” Vogele added. “Cool sells.”
Apparently, Western Springs and its residents are just that cool—and millions of travelers are now seeing so as they travel from trains and cars to their flights.