New mural in Aurora pays tribute to blues greats

A new mural in Aurora pays homage to five iconic blues artists while embracing the city’s historical importance to the music genre.

“Aurora Blues,” painted by Chicago artist Max Sansing, was inaugurated Tuesday with a ribbon cutting at Mundy Park.

  Artist Max Sansing of Chicago stands in front of “Aurora Blues,” the 60-foot-long mural he painted near Mundy Park in Aurora. Rick West/

Mayor Richard Irvin said the celebration of the history of blues music in the city was overdue.

“Aurora was the place where people came to record the blues, right at the top of Leland Tower,” Irvin said. “Over the years, we’ve forgotten our history. But today, Max is helping us to relive and remember who we are in the city of Aurora.”

  Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin congratulates artist Max Sansing on Tuesday during a ribbon cutting for the new mural “Aurora Blues.” Rick West/

The 60-foot-wide mural was painted on two separate buildings on the south side of the park and features portraits of musicians B.B. King, Tampa Red, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Sansing, who has worked all over the world, has an Aurora connection with his uncle Nazree Taylor.

Sansing’s father was an artist who taught him and his uncle to paint and draw. After his father died when Sansing was 14, Taylor was influential in nurturing Sansing’s artistic spirit.

“He’s been looking at my artwork since I was sticking stuff up on the refrigerator,” Sansing said. “I’ve painted all over the world, and I would always come back and tell him all my stories from my different travels. To be here and paint in his town so he can see it every day is awesome.”

Taylor said he wasn’t surprised by how well the mural came out.

“This is what his dad taught us,” Taylor said. “It makes me extremely proud.”

Sansing, who primarily is a painter of gallery works, said murals are tricky because of their public nature and the need for them to be accessible and appropriate for all.

“There’s that balance of trying to figure out how to be innovative and unique but also hit all the notes of the community that it’s in,” he said. “To be able to do that is a blessing.”

Chicago artist Max Sansing said his mural “Aurora Blues” in Mundy Park in Aurora took just over a week to paint. Courtesy of the city of Aurora

Sansing said it was one of the few times he’s painted a mural of known people. The painting of the mural took just over a week.

“I was actually kind of surprised at how well the portraits turned out,” he said.

  A new two-level mural called “Aurora Blues” was introduced to the public on Tuesday with a ceremonial ribbon cutting in Aurora. Rick West/

Aurora’s Chief Engagement Officer Clayton Muhammad said many blues artists used to record at Bluebird Records at the Leland Hotel in downtown Aurora in the 1930s. He said the timing of Tuesday’s event was auspicious.

“This is very special for us as we celebrate Juneteenth tomorrow,” he said. “We understand that the root of blues comes out of the culture of an enslaved people.”

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