Pursuit of Happiness - Remembering Christopher Gary's Life And Work

Written by Ana Maria Bezanilla Hyde Park, a strikingly gentrified bubble of academia nestled amongst unsafe territory, may have appeared on the country's radar solely from its Barack Obama fame, but from its empty streets and desolate parks, local neighborhood kids created a dream. Shawn Bullen and Christopher Gary, along with several other childhood friends, came to be known throughout the city as IDC. What started as a crew of friends developed into a brotherhood of talent. Gary and Bullen, already natural artists, started writing graffiti in high school, surrounded by an urban landscape waiting to be claimed. Indirect Disrespect, I Define Creative, I'm Damn Cool, Intergalactic Drug Club, and I Destroy Chicago are only a handful of acronyms that came to define them and what they stood for. Over the years, the IDC family, nurtured by its founders unconditional acceptance of others and willingness to venture into any territory, grew exponentially. With this the dream grew and grew, and IDC members represented the crew through participating in commission murals, inner-city art programs for kids, and curating various art shows featuring work from friends and newcomers alike.

On August 5, 2010, Gary and three others went on a late night boat ride on Lake Michigan to see the northern lights. Early in the morning they went for a swim, including the captain, consequently leaving the boat behind. By the time all four surfaced, the boat had traveled thirty feet away, and none of them could see each other. Two of the friends treaded water for five hours desperately hoping for a rescue from the chilling water and the unbelievably strong current which pulled them apart. Once the sun rose, the two girls, very close friends of Gary, were found by a fisherman. The body of the captain surfaced, and the boat was traced to a harbor six miles away. Christopher Gary was not found, and even upon days of searching, he remains missing in the water.

Not enough can be said to acknowledge his life, love, and influence. He shone on everyone around him, regardless of others' criticism. Gary not only excelled in drawing and painting both in the graffiti and fine art realms, but was a talented rapper who was working on various collaborations with fellow musicians from Chicago and beyond. No one could ignore that he was in the prime of his life. At 21 years old the entire city knew him. Graffiti writers across Chicagoland honored his life through tags and pieces, and this past Sunday, Hyde Park locals, IDC family members, and anyone Chris ever touched came to the 53rd street graffiti wall to pay tribute. The wall, a frequent hangout spot for the crew, constantly evolves with new works from artists every week, but at the end of that day from end to end it bore the thoughts, messages, and souls of everyone who ever loved him, and has never been more beautiful.

A couple days before Chris died he told me I was the person he respected the most. I became a part of the IDC family in a very dark time. They treated me like a sister while the rest of the world looked right through me. On a personal level IDC saved my life, and through the combined influences of all my best friends I learned to love myself and others equally. This is what the dream was. Chris, through his own quirky language, spontaneity and undying swagger represented it for all. He had many tattoos, but the one that meant the most to him was a burning candle on his chest, representing the lingering dream of IDC Arthouse, a plan incorporating the vast talents of our members, from teaching to cooking and everything in between. His loss has put our lives in perspective, and with open hearts we carry so much of his vibrancy in us. It is now our duty to make his dream, our dream, come true in ways he could have never imagined. We as a family want all to experience what we have to say, and join us in our quest to make the world fair, accessible, enjoyable, and enriching for all. As Chris would have wanted, beautiful, unimaginable ideas are about to manifest, and life begins anew.

Inspiring Dreaming Creating. RIP.