Common Addams, our ground-up coliving home in Chicago, was designed to offer members more than just your standard rental — with move-in ready apartments, 4,000 sq. feet of amenity spaces, and access to the Connect by Common app, this unique building makes it easy for members to connect with each other and their city.
We worked with Emmy Star Brown, a locally based artist and painter, to create custom work for the amenity spaces at Common Addams. Inspired by the city’s four distinct seasons, the pieces provide our members with points of connection to the city, moments of reflection, and beauty to inspire them throughout their day.
Keep reading to learn more about Emmy’s work, her life in the city, and where to get the best donuts in Chicago.
Hi Emmy! First things first, can you introduce yourself?
Hi! I’m Emmy Star Brown. I’m a Chicago muralist and painter. I’m the daughter of an artist/musician and was encouraged to take a creative path from a young age. After graduating art school, I initially took a commercial art path in advertising, which inspired a more graphical perspective approaching my personal artwork. My paintings often include typography, solid shapes and clean lines.
I do most of my planning, concepting and canvas painting at my Lakeview studio & gallery. It’s a perfectly small and ground level space with ample natural light, tall ceilings and lots of plants. My fluffy maltese mix Ralphie is with me here most days too. When I’m not at the studio, I’m working on-site painting murals around the city. I feel very thankful and fortunate for all the generosity this city has given me. The support and encouragement is not lost on me. This year will mark 12 years working independently full time.
Can you tell us more about the murals at Common Addams? What are they inspired by? What does the process of coming up with a vision for a large-scale mural look like?
These murals were designed to work cohesively throughout the first floor, with each also designed as interpretative and independent statement pieces. The paintings were inspired by the seasons of the midwest. I had a lot of fun choosing this unique color palette that is made up of neutrals, cool blues/greens and unexpected pops of lavender and yellow. I especially like the layering of brights and neutrals. It visually pops! The process began with collecting inspiration, which often leads with nature.
My current inspiration is Henri Matisse and his “painting with scissors” body of work, which is a collection of minimalist and modern works made from cut paper. I often think about how lucky we are to experience four distinct seasons in Chicago and I wanted to highlight them through abstract shapes and interacting elements.
You left your job at an agency to become a full-time artist. What advice would you give to anyone else looking to take the leap and pursue their passions outside of an office?
My best advice is to have an open and curious mind. There is no roadmap and it’s important to learn from the highs and lows. There are so many outlets to share artwork (galleries, art shows,commissions, commercial, residential, print, original, etc ) and early on it’s important to take in all the experiences you can to feel out what you enjoy.
Take risks, try new styles, experiment with mediums, collaborate with other creatives. My path, medium and style has continuously evolved over the past 12 years, and it will again.
What’s your dream project? Is there a wall or space in Chicago (or the world!) that you’d love to add a mural to?
My dream project is to create a line of textiles for the home. I have a strong interest in interior design and I think it would be fun to see my artwork applied to a tactile and functional medium like pillows, rugs, towels. I’m curious to see how these designs would live in other environments. Abstract pattern lends itself well for alternative uses and I believe art should never feel limited to walls.
What’s your favorite local spot in your neighborhood?
My favorite local spot is Jayson Home. It’s the intersection of all my favorite things – art, plants & home. It’s a beautifully curated shop and inspiring place to peruse.
What do you look for when searching for art for your own home?
I look for a story. My boyfriend and I have a large gallery wall at home that extends across our entire dining room. The artwork is an eclectic mix we’ve collected traveling, my father’s paintings, and unique pieces snagged from fundraisers, friends and local artists.
Do you have a favorite piece of public art in Chicago? Why is it your favorite?
Flamingo by Alexander Calder, my favorite artist. The enormous size and bright red color of this abstract public stabile is so impactful. It’s an interactive piece that encourages you to walk underneath to really take in the scale. Surrounded by rectangular buildings and linear lines, this piece breaks the grid of the city with curved and arching forms, emulating the movement of an animal.
The one thing anyone moving to Chicago should know is:
Do-Rite has the best donuts!
Get inspired every day
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