Highwood shakes things up with International Mural Festival

Story and photos by Karie Angell Luc For Chronicle Media 


Artist Al Diaz of New York City shakes a paint can at the Highwood International Mural Festival.

Celebrate Highwood launched the first Highwood International Mural Festival. 

The festival, featuring 14 mural artists, ran from June 6-9 and was poised to transform the city of Highwood. 

“We want it to be an outdoor museum,” said Eric Falberg, Highwood alderman and a business owner in the city. 

“He hit the nail on the head on that one,” Highwood Mayor Charlie Pecaro said of Falberg’s comment. 

Laura “Lulu” Reich of Astoria, N.Y., Mural Festival co-curator, grew up in Highland Park and is a member of the Highland Park High School Class of 1999. Reich “wanted to help my community,” after the parade shooting on July 4, 2022, in Highland Park.  

“As a curator, I always wanted to bring art here,” Reich said, adding the Mural Festival origin was “more of a joint idea.” 

Festival presenter Celebrate Highwood described in a statement how the International Mural Festival originated. 

“The initial concept came from the City of Highwood Beautification Committee, a newly formed

Eelco van den Berg of Rotterdam, The Netherlands stands in front of his creation at the Mural Festival. 

committee at the time tasked to help bring beauty and quaintness to the city of Highwood,” Celebrate Highwood indicated. 

The committee, which includes Falberg, “wanted to incorporate murals into the new pocket park projects.” 

“The Beautification Committee invited James Lynch from The Art Center Highland Park to assist in the murals at new parks,” according to Celebrate Highwood. 

“During discussions with James, the discussion morphed into the concept of an actual mural festival throughout Highwood.” 

Celebrate Highwood wanted to expand its annual June carnival with something fresh.  

“In a matter of one meeting between James and the Beautification Committee, the idea of a mural festival was born,” the statement indicated.   

“From there, Celebrate Highwood took off with the idea and the International Mural Festival came to fruition,” said the Celebrate Highwood statement. 

Artist Wane COD of Bronx, New York is ready to get to his creation. 

“James connected Celebrate Highwood with curators Silvertuna Studios, a New York City-based production company, and Laura ‘Lulu’ Reich of Collect with Lulu, a New York City-based curator, art dealer and collector,” Celebrate Highwood also said. 

The Art Center was the event beneficiary. 

Lynch confirmed, “TAC is increasing our programming in Highwood.” 

“We may have Highland Park in our name, but we’re the art center for the region,” Lynch said. “We’ve been hosting community art projects at the Highwood Library for years and want to expand programming even further.” 

Lynch recalled that “Reich first visited TAC a couple of years ago to say hello and … shared some of her mural artists that she curates for.” 

“We first wanted to do something in Highland Park, but the mural ordinance took longer than

Zimad of Bronx, New York paints on the wall of the Highwood Library.

expected to be approved,” Lynch said.It was during our partnering with Celebrate Highwood for the (Highwood) Pumpkin Festival that I first mentioned Lulu and her partner, Koz, to them.  

“Within a few days, I was meeting with members of their team and making an introduction to Lulu and Koz. I drove around Highwood looking at all of the walls that I thought would be great for large murals and many of them (were) in the festival.  

“The Celebrate Highwood team and City Council took the idea and ran with it. It’s really a team effort and it came together with a lot of great ideas and energy from all parties.” 

Art panels offered in an auction benefited TAC, a not-for-profit organization.  

Progress was swift on most murals the first day. 

Artist Eelco van den Berg of Rotterdam, The Netherlands painted a mural just east of Highwood’s downtown train tracks. 

It is “more life itself that inspires me,” van den Berg said. 

Al Diaz of New York City is renowned for using words on murals and said, “Words are powerful.” 

Artist Zimad of Bronx, New York painted colorful cartoon figures on the Highwood Public Library “to interact” with children.  

Anna Murphy of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood said, “All of my work has to do with Mother Nature and our divine connection to it.” 

Arist Epic Uno of Cayey, Puerto Rico stepped back to view his unfinished mural and said, “I see the finished piece already.”