'This is taking on a life of its own': Artist turns her garage door into a mural every year

Prospect Heights artist uses garage door as a canvas to create new artwork every year

All the world is a canvas for Prospect Heights artist Kate Tully - even her garage door.

For the fifth year, Tully has turned the front of her garage at 702 Spruce Drive into a vibrant mural, and just as with past creations, this year's installment is drawing attention.

  Kate Tully of Prospect Heights shows the mural of Albert Einstein on her garage door. Joe Lewnard/

Last month, Tully used chalk to design a mural devoted to Albert Einstein, the German-born physicist who developed the theory of relativity. Along with his face - and hair - the mural weaves together some of his famous equations, including the one that led to the discovery of atomic power.

The only text in the mural reads "Imagination," which incorporated Tully's desire to weave together art and science through the mural.

"I knew I wanted to do something with science," Tully says. "I was influenced by the moonwalk and space exploration, and that just led to science.

"Every time I do a new painting," she adds, "I learn something new."

  Artist Kate Tully of Prospect Heights explains how she created a mural of Albert Einstein on her garage door. Joe Lewnard/

The mural itself took just six hours to complete, but previous sketches and lots of research into Einstein led up to it, Tully says.

Her garage door murals started five years ago when she and her husband, Andy Fajiolo, were planning a party in the fall. Tully, who works professionally as a muralist, conceived the idea of decorating the front of their home with the image of "Injun Summer," originally created by cartoonist John McCutcheon for the Chicago Tribune.

Previous murals have included "Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh, a traditional fall scene and last year's painting of the Wicked Witch of the West from "The Wizard of Oz."

All of the murals have been created using chalk, which surprisingly lasts throughout the year. Through rain and snow, the images remain intact, she says.

  Kate Tully of Prospect Heights creates a new mural on her garage door ever year. This year it features a mural of Albert Einstein. Joe Lewnard/

"This is taking on a life of its own," Tully says. "I originally did it for myself, but now the neighborhood seems to enjoy it. They know I change it around this time of year, so they've been asking me when the new one would come out."

Most of all, Tully enjoys seeing children in the area take interest in her artwork. She has seen children drawing in chalk on their driveways. She even saw a school bus stop in front of the house for youngsters to take in the mural.

Tully is used to creating public murals. While she has done mostly residential work, she also has been commissioned by the Arlington Heights, Lombard and Prospect Heights park districts, often to paint murals in their pools.

One of her more recent jobs was to paint a mural that featured mountains to accompany a climbing wall at Ben Franklin School in Park Ridge.

For the last 20 years, Tully has worked with her husband, an artist himself, who sets up scaffolding for her and helps her flesh out the designs.

  Kate Tully of Prospect Heights and her husband, Andy Fajiolo, who is also an artist, stand at the entrance to their extensive backyard garden. Joe Lewnard/

Turns out, the garage door is just the beginning of their artistic endeavors together. Venture into their backyard through a wooden pergola and a beautiful, multilayered garden awaits.

Its features include multiple welded sculptures made by Fajiolo, as well as vibrant flowers, a nature walk, mosaic sculptures and even another mural - of beekeepers by Tully - and all backing up to MacDonald Creek.

But it is her colorful garage door murals that she shares with her neighbors and the surrounding community. And like her subject this year, Einstein, she hopes her work inspires "imagination."

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