Made In Chicago: Chalking It Over

Lisa Fielding
June 15, 2020 - 10:25 am
Nina Tiberi-Sawica decided to use her art to send positive messages.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Nina Tiberi-Sawica calls her self a chalkologist.

"I thought chalk artist was too, not expressing the fun that's involved in it, so I came up with something more bubbly, creative, I guess," she laughed.

Her artistry soon became her business.

"We started this little business called Chalking It Over that specializes in creating customizes signs for restaurants, local businesses, but also parties and local events. I started out in the restaurant scene while I was customizing some different signs for different events. It expanded from there. Friends were getting married, friends were starting families and wanting to celebrating the happy moments in life," she said.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic, like many, her business came to a sudden halt. Last week, as she was driving around her neighborhood, she realized she could use her talents for something else: dozens of storefronts throughout the city boarded up as a result of looting and property damage.

Tiberi-Sawica decided to use her art to send positive messages. Her first canvass was Taste Of New York Bagels in Lakeview.

Nina Tiberi-Sawica decided to use her art to send positive messages.
Provided by Christine Haase

"I needed to figure out a way to express my voice and give back. I decided to pivot from chalk to paint. There's been so much hurt in our world and in our city, This is a small way I could help amplify messages. I was seeing my city hurting. There's so many businesses boarded up. Taste of New York Bagles wanted to turn their boards into a platform to share a message that Black Lives Matter," she said.

At Carol's Pub in Uptown, the plywood now has a message of music, love, and support.

"At Carol's I really wanted to amplify messages I've seen. Carol's is a music venue so we have a guitar, we have hearts, we have peace signs and the message of just spreading love and we stand in solidarity. Some of the phrases are end racism now, spread love, and Carol's Cares to encourage people to donate to my My Block, My Hood, My City," she said.

Nina Tiberi-Sawica decided to use her art to send positive messages.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

A third location is at Little Broken Things in Bucktown.

"It's a hair salon. It was our most collaborative community piece so far," Tiberi-Sawica said.

Tiberi-Sawica's friends soon joined in the efforts.

Nina Tiberi-Sawica decided to use her art to send positive messages.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"Whenever things are bad in society, I always look to Nina. She's incredibly positive. She posted something about painting the plywood. I'm not artistically inclined, but I wanted to do something to help and show solidarity," said Kelly Mitchell, volunteer. "These take a long time to create. I was happy to join the movement."

"When I heard Nina was doing this I knew I had to help," said Christine Haase, friend/volunteer. "This expanded quickly and it was such an honor to be part of it and spread her message of positivity. All of Chicago is hurting and we wanted to do what we could."

Tiberi-Sawica said as people saw her working on a board, more joined in. Soon enough bright colors and messages of solidarity brought a little light during a dark time.

"It's my responsibility to do something," she said. 

Nina Tiberi-Sawica decided to use her art to send positive messages.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"When you drive down the block, especially when it's your block and there's plywood everywhere, you get this depressed feeling. There's so much to be sad or upset about right now, but when you see messages like this, it can change your day and give you hope. I think Nina is doing that one plywood board at a time," Haase said.

Tiberi-Sawica calls it "Chalktivism".

Chalking It Over was always about messages of happiness and hope. Now she said it's about healing.

"We all benefit from art in the community in lots of different ways and it can be healing. If it can provide a little bit of a glimmer of hope that this world, if we come together, we can make it better, than it's a pretty important message to share," Tiberi-Sawica said.

For more information log onto chalkingitover.com or find it on Instagram and Facebook.