Church murals in Reba Square reflect freedom and inclusiveness

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View of Custer Avenue from Reba Place Church and new murals. (Photo provided by Gay Riseborough)

Six newly painted banners outside Reba Place Church tell an important story of the place of worship’s mission.

The west wall of the building, facing Custer, has been bare since the community acquired it in 1980. But the congregation had long wanted to put something “outside” the building that would describe or represent what was happening “outside” of the building. inside – who they are and what they care about.

Artist and member Rob Larson was proud to paint this story at 620 Madison St., on the southeast corner of Madison and Custer avenues. The building was once an industrial garage, where buses were stored and painted.

Installation of “Welcoming Everyone” with artist Rob Larson on a ladder and Peter Varela on scaffolding. (Photo provided by Reba Church)

The ideas for the designs came from the identity statement of the Reba Church and the congregation. The leadership team brought the concept to the congregation where feedback helped with the final topic choices. During the pandemic, when the building could not be used for indoor religious services, it became an art studio, where canvases were spread out and painted on the floor. Larson had at least twenty-five painting helpers, including children.

The first and largest of the paintings, 12’x14 ‘, traveling north to south, is titled “Meeting Jesus and the Anabaptist Movement,” said Pastor Charlotte Lehman. The Reba Church is of Mennonite origin and is part of the Anabaptist movement. “Anabaptist” means “to re-baptize,” she said.

The figure of Jesus is predominant in this painting, in a red robe. The background was inspired by a sunrise over Lake Michigan, suggesting a new day and hope. A fruit tree of birds tending to their baby nests carries the house and refuge and two jumping fish (and a third hidden in the water) refer to the Trinity.

Artist Rob Larson and Pastor Charlotte Lehman. (Photo provided by Gay Riseborough)

Images are painted on custom cut heavy cotton duck canvas, hemmed and eyeleted so they can be easily mounted without damaging the brick wall. Exterior latex / acrylic home paint was used, with clear waterproofing coats and UV protective coatings.

The figure of Jesus is predominant in this painting, in a red robe. The background was inspired by a sunrise over Lake Michigan, suggesting a new day and hope. A fruit tree of birds tending to their baby nests carries the house and refuge and two jumping fish (and a third hidden in the water) refer to the Trinity.

The remaining five paintings are a bit smaller, 8’x 8 ‘, and are mostly based on quilt designs. Quilting is a Mennonite tradition and the square concept of quilting brought cohesion to the overall design, said artist-designer Larson.

These five paintings denote stories that involve themes such as runaway slaves following the pole star to freedom, civil rights, the power of music, inclusiveness, learning from others about our own community and around the world, and the many gifts we receive in life.

The concept for this project and the designs for these paintings were presented to the Evanston Arts Council by Larson and Lehman in May 2021. Larson was delighted to receive artistic approval and community support for his project.


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