We’re in the middle of winter here in Chicago, and with the snow, cold and slush comes the inevitable potholes.
Yes, everyone who survived last year’s polar vortex knows that once the snow, cold and slush are gone, we're left with potholes. And, lots of them.
In fact, last year, at the end of January, there were about 100,000 potholes along the streets of Chicago.
For Chicago drivers, it meant carefully navigating the holes to try to save a tire or prevent any other damage to your car. And, telling your kids to hold on as you bumped up and down and up and over pothole after pothole.
For Chicago residents, it meant endless reports and complaints of streets the sheer size and number of the potholes and, unfortunately, cars getting damaged.
At the time, it was hard not to get weighed down by it all – the cold, the complaints and the potholes.
But, as winter bid us farewell and spring came upon us, and something interesting, remarkable and simply beautiful happened. Art had seeming sprung out of the very potholes that plagued our city streets.
To Chicago artist Jim Bachor, potholes aren’t just a nuisance. No. Not at all. To him, they're an urban canvas just ripe for artwork. And, his mosaic artwork to be exact.
Bachor’s efforts to fill Chicago’s potholes with mosaic art began back in May of 2013 and continued in earnest in 2014.
Last year, Bachor filled more than nine potholes with mosaics.
Some featured Chicago’s iconic flag. Some helpfully included the phone numbers of nearby auto repair shops. Some featured flowers, heralding the start of warm temperatures. And, all sharply stood out against the backdrop of the asphalt of a Chicago city street.
Each piece is a true work of art, inlaid against an urban backdrop. And, each one takes a good two days from start to finish – weather permitting, of course.
But, like a tragic love story, these works of art are often mired in challenges and uncertainty.
For Bachor’s pothole mosaics, that means the sad fact that they may get covered when the street gets patched or resurfaced with asphalt by the City of Chicago. Plus, to see them you have to search them out, and even carefully step onto a Chicago side street to see one for yourself.
That, to me, makes the mosaics that more precious, knowing that its beauty may be fleeting.
For those of us in Chicago, you can still try to get a glimpse at some of his pothole mosaics that he installed in 2013 and 2014.
On his website, Bachor includes a helpful map with a list of those works of art still there out in Chicago’s streets, making note of those that have been covered up.
But, we’ll have to wait until the spring to see any new pothole mosaics.
While the “canvases” are there now, Bachor needs to wait until the temperatures rise up into the 60s – otherwise the concrete won’t properly set. But, in the meantime, he’s “stockpiling” new artwork to install in this year’s new crop of potholes.
According to Bachor, we can expect to see a continuation of a few of the series he started in 2014, with new installations set to be introduced this year.
The new mosaics are financed by the people – well, the people who helped fund his Kickstarter campaign.
At this time, Bachor expects to do at least 12 mosaic pothole installations before the end of 2015. But, only time will tell.
So, for now, as I drive down Chicago’s city streets that are already beginning to be filled with potholes, I can’t help but eagerly await spring – and the fun that will come in seeking out Bachor’s newest pothole mosaic art creations.
Because, with the thaw, beauty will spring forth.
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