Famed American artist Keith Haring got his start in the New York City subway system in the early 1980s sketching chalk murals on unused advertising panels. He quickly grew in popularity, achieving international acclaim within a decade.
Fans flocked to Haring's large-scale murals, known for their simple, distinctive and cartoonlike illustrations. Having been diagnosed with HIV in 1988, Haring spent his later years focusing on creating images for AIDS and children's programs.
In May 1989, Haring stopped by Chicago to work with some 300 public-high-school students on public murals. Mayor Richard M. Daley had issued an official proclamation creating "Keith Haring Week" and ordered several public art projects.
"[Haring] is respected for committing his life and work to the democratic ideals of social justice, equality and compassion for his fellow man," Daley wrote.
On his last day in the city, Haring stopped by Rush University Memorial Hospital to paint two wall murals, both of which are proudly displayed to this day.
The first, located in the bustling fourth-floor atrium, features black-and-white figures of all shapes and sizes surrounding a red heart. The second, situated near a walkway that connects buildings along Harrison Street and Congress Parkway, is much brighter. Colorful animals, television sets and astronauts wave and smile at passersby.
"I could earn a lot more money by only painting and selling canvases," Haring told the Rush newsletter NewsRounds in June 1989, "but I really enjoy creating murals for children."
The murals stood untouched for about a decade, but Rush covered them with glass panels in the late 1990s to protect Haring's images.
"This is a main traffic area, so it was starting to get a little dingy," said Nathalie Wheaton, Rush University Medical Center assistant archivist. "People would bump into it."
Today, visitors are invited to stop by Rush and check out Haring's murals, which are predominantly displayed on the fourth floor. Haring died of AIDS-related complications on Feb. 16, 1990; he was 31 years old.
To learn more about Haring, visit www.haring.com .