Constable: Artist brings Wrigley Field murals into homes
During a high school volleyball game in the mid-1970s, Hersey High School player Cathy Weadley gazed up at the giant green-and-gold Grenadier enemy mascot painted on the gymnasium wall at Elk Grove High School and felt compelled to ask her huddled teammates just one question -- "What color do you think they painted first?"
Weadley's artistic inquiry was met with a chorus of incredulous "Shut up, and get your head in the game," she remembers. Now, with more than three decades as a coach and physical education teacher in Prospect Heights Elementary District 23, Weadley's head is wrapped around painting murals of Wrigley Field scenes and other iconic images.
"I've always been inspired by big paintings," says Weadley, an Arlington Heights resident who turns 57 Wednesday.
The Cubs' season is over, but Weadley keeps the spirit alive by painting murals of the bricks, ivy, scoreboard, marquee and other Wrigley images on walls in fans' homes.
"I fell in love with Wrigley when I went to my first game at Wrigley in 1969," Weadley says, recalling a childhood field trip with the Arlington Heights Park District. "My dream is to paint the press box at Wrigley."
A PE teacher at Anne Sullivan Elementary and Betsy Ross Elementary schools in Prospect Heights, the gregarious woman known as "Ms. Weads" also has coached countless suburban children in basketball, softball, volleyball, baseball, badminton and swimming. She got her start in art as a child growing up in Palatine and Arlington Heights.
"My parents gave me an easel for Christmas one year," Weadley says, noting adults often gave her a pencil and paper during family gatherings. "They'd say, 'Here, draw something,' because they knew it would keep me quiet."
But her formal art training ended early.
"The last time I had an art class was freshman year in high school, and someone stole my artwork," she says. After her ceramic likeness of a realistic gym shoe disappeared, Weadley was so devastated she refused to take another art class.
But her passion remained.
Two decades ago, she started painting sports-themed bedrooms for friends. She also made sports-related menorahs and table centerpieces for students' bar mitzvahs.
In 1999, she painted a giant raccoon mascot and "MacArthur, Home of the Marauders" across a gymnasium wall at Douglas MacArthur Middle School in Prospect Heights. She's painted similar images on walls at schools in Barrington, Wheeling and Northbrook.
"Now, I focus more on bedrooms and basements," says Weadley. Her diverse portfolio includes an animal print "safari room" for a child's bedroom in Gilberts, and a likeness of the 35th Street CTA el station across from U.S. Cellular Field for a boy who loves trains and White Sox baseball.
"I'm waiting for someone to ask for a Bears wall," Weadley says. "I've got a great idea in my head."
She also has a cause in her heart. Profits from her art projects will be donated to her goddaughter, Kelsey Ibach, a 25-year-old Arlington Heights woman who was paralyzed below the waist as a passenger in a car crash in September 2013.
Weadley says she understands part of the rehab and recovery struggle because of her own life-and-death battle after contracting the West Nile virus from a mosquito bite in 2006.
"Everything I do now is a fundraiser for Kelsey," says Weadley, who also collects and recycles wire, cans and other metal scraps for that effort.
Two years ago, the teacher took weeks to convert a bedroom in the Mount Prospect home of Lauren and Bob Terlecki into a Cubs oasis.
"It's really cool sleeping in it every night," says Andrew Terlecki, now 14. "My favorite part is the brick wall and the ivy. It's amazing."
His sister, Hayley, 12, is working out details for a basketball-themed bedroom.
"I pencil-draw the whole wall before I put any paint on," Weadley says. An ivy-covered brick wall requires two shades of red and four shades of green.
"I do it all with sponge brushes," she says. "It's very relaxing for me. Painting's been an escape for me. I'm planning my PE curriculum while I paint."
She sometimes uses a transparency on an overhead projector to let customers see how the finished product will look.
"I have a real overactive imagination. My head works in a crazy way. I can see things when I'm painting that other people don't see," says Weadley, who incorporates that into her signature. "I always hide my name in my artwork. Some people look for hours and can't find it."
In her quest to raise money for Ibach, Weadley encourages potential customers to contact her at email@example.com. But her teaching career, which started in Elk Grove Village and Mundelein before 35 years with District 23, comes first. "I still love what I'm doing every day," Weadley says.
With her murals, those Cubs images are "my favorite thing to paint," Weadley says. "You see and feel Wrigley Field when you walk in there. It's kind of neat."