Street Artist Literally Makes Streets Art

Each summer, artist Jim Bachor fills potholes in the streets of Chicago with beautiful mosaics.

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Sep 7 2016, 12:40pm

Artist Jim Bachor installed this mosaic of a crushed can on the street as part of his current Pretty Trashed series. Images courtesy the artist

If you happen to go for a walk in Chicago and see a piece of trash on the street, look closely: it might be art. Each year artist Jim Bachor launches a crowdfunding campaign to produce a series of colorful mosaics that he uses to fill in potholes on the streets of Chicago. In past years, Bachor chose endearing themes like flowers, which he called Flower Pot Holes, or popsicles and ice cream, which he called Treats in the Streets, in order to beautify the streets in more traditional ways. This year, Bachor decided to embrace his mosaic's gritty resting places with the Pretty Trashed series, illustrating a variety of debris. As Bachor tells The Creators Project, “This is trash that you see in the streets anyway, why don’t I try to render it beautifully?”

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Bachor’s first pothole mosaic from 2013

Bachor started making mosaics several years ago, after he volunteered to work on an archeological dig in Italy. “The permanence of the art form is what drew me to it first. Marble and glass do not fade. Mortar is mortar. An ancient mosaic looks exactly as intended by the artist who produced it over two millennia ago.” It wasn’t until the spring of 2013, when Bachor noticed a pothole in the street in front of his Chicago home, that he realized that he could simply fill it with a mosaic. “Temporarily fixed over and over again by city street crews, I began to apply this resilient artwork as a more permanent fix,” explains Bachor.

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Bachor filled a pothole in the street with a mosaic of a candy bar wrapper.

Over the past few years, Bachor has developed a methodology for making and installing his essentially functional work. “Temperature plays a big part of the process. It gets warm enough around April for the installations to set properly. Given my canvas is a city street, occasionally the artwork gets paved over or patched with asphalt. That comes with playing the street. For me the only risks/challenges are making sure not to get hit by a car during an installation. There is a limitless supply of pothole candidates. When the weather cooperates, an installation takes about two days to complete.”

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An ice cream cone from Bachor’s 2015 series called Treats in the Streets.

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A popsicle mosaic installed in the street

Despite the prevalence of potholes in city streets, there are a number of constraints that limit the locations where Bachor can install his mosaics. “I am at the mercy of the potholes,” says Bachor. If the streets are too beat up, his mosaics may fall apart or the street may end up getting repaved soon after he installs them. Most importantly, the mosaics have to go places where they’ll be seen, so Bachor is always looking for opportunities to travel and bring his mosaics to new places.

Recently, Bachor traveled to Detroit and Philadelphia to install a few mosaics in locations that were scouted by local volunteers before his arrival. In each location, Bachor installed mosaics he designed based on trash that might be found on streets in the area, like packages of Better Made potato chips in Detroit, and cartons of Arctic Splash iced tea in Philadelphia. Before leaving Philadelphia, Bachor installed an additional mosaic featuring his personal philosophy, which simply reads “Make Your Mark.”

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A mosaic of a Better Made potato chips bag in Detroit.

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A mosaic of an Arctic Splash iced tea carton in Philadelphia.

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Bachor installed a mosaic featuring his personal philosophy in Philadelphia, which reads “MAKE YOUR MARK.”

Bachor says that he’s always trying to “push the concept further” by getting ideas “out of my head and into the ground.” And, as summer draws to a close this year, Bachor has no plans of slowing down. “It’s universal,” says Bachor of the positive response his work receives from the public. “Everyone can relate to it.”

Take a look at Jim Bachor’s website and Instagram to see examples of the pieces he’s installed and track their locations with his interactive map of pothole mosaics.

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