CHICAGO — A golden frame filled with the cosmos went up on a brick building near the Western Blue Line. Its creator, speckled in paint, finished off glints of light on the stars. In a few clean lines, he wrote, "memorial mural in progress."
For longtime Chicago artist Tyrue "Slang" Jones, the project was personal.
Brandon McGhee, 23, was walking near that wall in June, after a hot summer day spent visiting his mom, when he was shot and killed in one of the most violent weekends Chicago has seen in recent years. McGhee went to the same grammar school as Jones' kids. McGhee's mother, LaDonna Lane, was an old family friend.
McGhee would have turned 24 earlier this month. Since then, visitors have stopped by the mural to drop off flowers, light a candle or spend some time with thoughts of McGhee.
"I was just honored to be able to do it," Jones said. "When I sit back and look at it, it's something that I'm proud of."
Jones remembers McGhee as a young kid, looking out for one of his daughters who would watch the after-school basketball games. McGhee was more worried about keeping her safe from rogue hoop shots than the game.
"Everyone says I'm judgmental," Jones joked. "I like to just say I'm observant. I pay attention to details, that's why I paint." But he never found fault with McGhee. "I remember him always being just such a cool kid."
When Jones learned of McGhee's death, he said he "lost all the air" out of his chest. And when he learned Lane hoped to memorialize her son with a mural, he was all in.
McGhee and Lane were best friends, Jones said. "That boy was close to his mother."
Lane sent photos of her son. Jones practiced drawings. He thought about the afterlife, what's up there in the clouds, space.