CRE8IV Artists

CRE8IV utilized professional artists from across the country and right here in in the Rockford Region.  Over the 5-year span of mural installs, over 400 applications were received.  Working with a committee of local arts-minded professionals, projects and artists were meticulously selected each year based on experience, project need and overall style.  We wish we could have chosen them all!

Some artists were part of multiple seasons of CRE8IV.  Read more below about the artists and the works they completed.  You can also see their other works by visiting their websites or social media pages.

Meet the 2024 Artists

Thomas Agran
Dustin Eckhardt
Drew Etienne 
Drew Eurek
Lisa Frost
Atalie Gagnet
Andrea Jablonski
Anthony Lewellen
Jenny Mathews
Sarah McNamara
Jesse Melenson 
Oh Ya!
Jenny Ustick
Brett Whitacre
Dysen White

THOMAS AGRAN
Thomas Agran

Born in Kentucky, raised in Ohio, and currently residing in Iowa City, Iowa, Thomas Agran is very interested in the Midwest -- for both its charms as well as its challenges. He is particularly dedicated to the Midwestern landscape, its total transformation through agriculture, and the political, social, and environmental consequences of that change. Some of his paintings also explore the complicated nexus of food, agriculture, nostalgia, and marketing. Agran has taught painting and drawing at the university level since 2011, and worked for 3 years as the Director of Public Art for the Iowa City Downtown District. In addition to his studio work, he has designed, executed, managed, and mentored dozens of mural projects -- from private commissions to large municipal state work in historically sensitive areas to community engaged and participatory mural and public art projects. In addition to his studio practice, mural work, and teaching, Agran also works as a consultant for murals and other public art projects and programs.

CRE8IV Project:
2021 CRE8iV Mural
2022 CRE8IV Mural

JHONATTAN ARANGO
Jhonattan 2023

Jhonattan Arango brings his geometric style to Rockford to contribute to the CRE8IV program for the first time. Near the Rockford Nicholas Conservatory, his mural on N. 2nd St. highlights the view of the structure and the river with vibrant florals.

Jhonattan originates from Camagüey, Cuba where he learned his appreciation for the arts. After immigrating to the U.S, he served as a medic in the navy and now shares his artistic vision across the U.S. and his hometown in West Palm Beach, Florida. His work is easily recognizable due to his use of triangles in his composition that gives a tile-like appearance.

CRE8IV Project:
2023 CRE8IV Mural

YULIA AVGUSTINOVICH
Yulia Avgustinovich

Yulia was born and grew up in Baranovichi, a small town in Belarus. At the age of 16, Yulia went to Minsk and studied art in college receiving a degree in classic painting and teaching art. She started her career as a muralist in 2002 and completed her first outdoor mural in 2008 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Yulia states, "After accomplishing my first public art projects and wall murals, the feeling of fulfillment and the amazing feedback I received from the public confirmed that I was on the right path."

CRE8IV Projects:
2019 CRE8IV Mural
2019 CRE8IV Mural
2021 CRE8IV Mural

COREY BARKSDALE
 Corey Barksdale

Artist Corey Barksdale’s projects have touched the hearts of all those that have come across them. Every piece of his artwork connects with the body, mind and soul. Corey’s resume includes a current project for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, and numerous projects for television. Corey states, “My vision as an Atlanta artist is to connect more on a more personal level with my fans and audience with the best of creative art works.”

CRE8IV Project:
2019 CRE8IV Mural

RAFAEL BLANCO
Rafael Blanco

Native of Alicante (Spain), Rafael Blanco is a contemporary artist fascinated with identity, human expression, and diversity & inclusion as a main focus in his work. Trained as a classical studio painter, Blanco has been, since 2014, transitioning to public art, especially to large scale murals.

Blanco attended Florida Southern College (2000-02) and graduated with a BA in Studio Arts from Saint Mary’s College of California (2002-04). After receiving his MFA in Painting & Drawing from the University of Nevada, Reno (2010-2013), he worked as the Art Program Coordinator at Feather River College until 2019.

Currently, he works as Assistant Professor at Elmhurst University, where he teaches Drawing, Painting, and Art History. Blanco lives in the Chicago area with his family.

CRE8IV Project:
2021 CRE8IV Mural

AJ DAVIS
AJ Davis 2023

AJ Davis was Rockford for the first time to complete his mural in the Veterans Memorial Circle in 2023. The mural, facing Auburn St, honors veterans and active military serving our nation in the armed forces with reverential images. AJ joins us from Denver, Colorado where he is a full-time muralist, sculptor, and jeweler. Internationally recognized, AJ founded Project Street Gold where he works with world renowned artists to create cast metal sculptures. His own murals strive to connect with the diversity of the communities and environments he works in, often honoring native wildlife in his art. 

CRE8IV Project:
2023 CRE8IV Mural

DUSTIN ECKHARDT
Dustin 2023

Dustin Eckhardt joined the CRE8IV initiative for his second year to produce two new murals. Living right in Rockford, in 2023 Dustin created a mural in Rockton that will highlight a new pocket park with its images of native wildlife and pelicans that annually nest nearby. Dustin is also featured in the Art Alley- the Stewart Square Alley- with his work ‘framed’ in bricked window features.

You can find Dustin’s work throughout the region and around the Midwest, recognizable by his use of vibrant color and playful composition.

CRE8IV Projects:
2022 CRE8IV Mural
2023 CRE8IV Mural 

FATHERLESS
Fatherless

Fatherless is a print collective from Rockford, Illinois, that started in 2010. They have gained international attention with their print, installation and commission work using a lurid palette and bold graphic sense. The members operate as a unit collaborating freely with each other's ideas and imagery. This process does not reveal any individual artists or "father" but rather an amalgam of the whole. Each piece is a one off monoprint that will never be repeated. The collective power of the four individuals allows for a wide range of ambitious projects that satirizes what they see as "our consumer driven, media saturated, disposable culture." Artists consist of Javier Jimenez, Greg Lang, Dave Menard, and Ben Rider (UK).

CRE8IV Projects:
2021 CRE8IV Mural
2021 CRE8IV Mural

LISA & LIBBIE FROST 
Lisa & Libbie Frost

Nationally recognized artist Lisa Frost’s mission is to spread cheer throughout the land. Lisa is the owner of Lisa Frost Studio, located in Rockford, Illinois. As a native and current resident, she is dedicated to her art and giving back to her community. Libbie is 18 years old and a senior at Boylan Catholic High School. She plans on pursuing college in business and an art related field.

CRE8IV Projects:
2019 CRE8IV Mural
2021 CRE8IV Mural

LOUISE (OUIZI) JONES
Louise 2023

Rockford is ecstatic to welcome Louise (Ouizi) Jones for her first CRE8IV project. She specializes in fantastic floral murals and has completed works in North Carolina, Alaska, New York, Indiana, and more.

Originally from Los Angeles, CA, she is now based in Detroit, MI and travels to share her creations with communities all over the U.S.  You can follow her work on Instagram @0uizi.

She recently completed her gorgeous mural for the 2023 CRE8IV program with assistance by fellow artist, Roxy Erickson. The finished mural is 25 x 90 ft, spills over onto the building above the main wall, and features 2 butterflies as well as plant types such as: lupine, lilac, Rudbeckia, Coral Charm peony, Cora Louise peony, hydrangea, Blue flag iris, and Big Blue Stem grass.

CRE8IV Project:
2023 CRE8IV Mural

SAM KIRK
Sam Kirk

Sam Kirk is a multidisciplinary artist, who explores culture and identity politics through her creations. Her artwork focuses on a variety of intersections which encompass a call to celebrate differences and enact change. Her paintings include vivid powerful images of women, members of the LGBTQIA community, and those who have historically been underrepresented. Her work celebrates these people and the journeys that have made them who they are.

CRE8IV Project:
2021 CRE8IV Mural

ANTHONY LEWELLEN
Anthony 2023

Coming to Rockford from Chicago, IL this is Anthony Lewellen’s second year with the CRE8IV program. This year’s total of three murals decorates two guard rails and a nearby retaining wall along Auburn street. Anthony’s work is central to Chicago and the Midwest to tell stories about the districts he creates in.

CRE8IV Projects:
2022 CRE8IV Mural
2023 CRE8IV Mural
2023 CRE8IV Mural

JENNY MATHEWS
Jenny

Jenny is a visual artist from Rockford, IL, who specializes in everything from tiny watercolor illustrations to big acrylic murals. Jenny’s prolific style allows her to obsess and work on extensive series of small things as well as large-scale singular pieces. Her work has been on display at the Rockford Art Museum and can currently be seen at the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, IL. Her small illustrations are published in many children’s books, both fiction and non-fiction.

CRE8IV Projects:
2019 CRE8IV Mural
2022 CRE8IV Mural
2023 CRE8IV Mural

JESSE MELANSON
Jesse 2023

Rockford welcomes Jesse Melanson for the first time as the reach of the CRE8IV program expands Eastward. In a Forest City themed mural, Jesse’s playful style adds color to the E. State St, Goodwill with respect to Goodwill’s effort to save monarch butterflies. In his mission to connect communities and people, Jesse’s work can be found across the U.S. while he lives and works out of Truckee, CA and Austin, TX.

CRE8IV Project:
2023 CRE8IV Mural

CHASE MELENDEZ
Chase 2023

Chase is leading his first CRE8IV mural after assisting Jenny Ustick and Atalie Gagnet with the 815 E. State Street project last year in 2022. His style is full of vibrant colors and geometric flair which has lended itself perfectly to this year’s creation in the alleyway behind Stewart Square.

He hails from Camp Washington, Cincinnati, Ohio and his motto to describe his work is “building things to paint, painting things that are built.” His creations brighten up communities, businesses, and even theaters across the Midwest.

His 2023 contribution to the CRE8IV project is kicking off the creation of Art Alley between Stewart Square and The Symbols Clothing. The alleyway will feature his massive color-blocked mural as well as lighting to make the alley a safe and fun walkway for both visitors and residents of the city.

CRE8IV Project:
2023 CRE8IV Mural

KELSEY MONTAGUE
Kelsey Montague Photo

Kelsey is an artist very interested in exploring how public art, interactive art and social media intersect. Her murals specifically invite people into a piece and then invite people to share their experience online. She believes that art should not be separated from the human experience. Instead the human experience should have a hand in creating the art itself. After studying art in Florence, and graduating from Richmond University in London with a degree in Art, Design & Media, Kelsey spent 4 years in NYC – embracing and battling the Big Apple while developing her pen & ink style.
 

CRE8IV Project:
2018 CRE8IV Mural

MURALS & MORE - MICAHEL COOPER
Murals more

Michael Cooper has been painting large scale murals for about three decades. He founded Murals & More LLC in 1990 with is wife, Mickie. He is most well known for his attention to detail and hyper realism. Michael teaches classes at his studio, runs seminars throughout the country, and even has an instructional DVD on how to paint murals.

CRE8IV Project:
2022 CRE8IV Mural

OHYA STUDIOS - RAY MAWST & BRIAN KEHOE
OhYa 2023

OhYa Studio returned from Madison, WI to Rockford for the 2nd year in 2023 to create a bright and welcoming mural on E. State St.

Founders Ray Mawst and Brian Kehoe have led OhYa Studio around the country and came to Rockford last year for their mural near Veterans Memorial Circle.

Ray has worked in production art and branding to master custom lettering, as Brian uses his experience in construction, metal casting and stone fabrication to create large scale projects.

CRE8IV Projects:
2022 CRE8IV Mural
2023 CRE8IV Mural

STUK ONE
Stuk One

Ryan "Stuk One" Lape is a Chicago-based artist and a force in the nationwide graffiti scene for more than 20 years. Originally from Rockford, Illinois, Stuk One specializes in small to large-scale mural work, illustrations, canvas work, merchandise design, inked drawings, and typography.

Utilizing mediums ranging from aerosol paints and markers to acrylic paints and inks, Stuk One pushes the limits of perception with his unique design aesthetics and advanced applications. Fans of Stuk One instantly recognize his bright color schemes and unique compositions, combined with surgically clean lines and design elements. Clients ranging from apparel companies and music groups, to restaurants and residential art collectors, all utilize Stuk One for his unique versatility and talents that provide and endless menu of effective design possibilities.

CRE8IV Project:
2021 CRE8IV Mural

Asia Michael Peters 

Asia Michael Peters is a local artist who aims to connect people with their environment by imagining welcoming places that inspire stillness and sensory experiences.

CRE8IV Project:
2023 CRE8IV Mural

JUSTUS ROE

Justus Roe works in a variety of visual mediums including canvas painting, large scale wall paintings / murals and sculptural installations. His work references architecture, city grid systems, and landscapes. His stylized forms, mark making and color palette develop work that is at once reminiscent of aerial perspectives and metropolitan environments.

CRE8IV Projects:
2018 CRE8IV Mural
2018 CRE8IV Mural

CHRIS SILVA 
Chris Silva

Though born in Puerto Rico, Chris’ creative pursuits are firmly rooted in Chicago’s urban culture. Chris was an innovative figure in Chicago’s graffiti and skateboarding scenes and from that foundation proceeded to play a significant role in the development of what is now commonly referred to as “street art.” Chris splits his time between working on large-scale commissions, producing gallery-oriented work, and leading youth-involved public art projects.

CRE8IV Project:
2019 CRE8IV Mural

JENNY USTICK & ATALIE GAGNET
Jenny Ustick and Atalie Gagnet

No Rinkydink are Jenny Ustick and Atalie Gagnet, joining together with their years of mural experience, and a dedication to craft and collaboration. They feel strongly about connecting with and honoring the communities where they are invited to work.

Jenny Roesel Ustick is Associate Professor of Practice in Art at the University of Cincinnati. She has been painting murals regionally and nationally since 2008, and has been muralist in residence in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Graniti, Sicily.

Atalie Gagnet of Dayton, Ohio is a mural graphics and sign painter since 2003. She has painted for the Guggenheim and Architectural Digest for Art Basel Miami. She is driven by serving small businesses and communities through her work.

CRE8IV Projects:
2019 CRE8IV Mural
2021 CRE8IV Mural
2022 CRE8IV Mural
2022 CRE8IV Mural

BRETT WHITACRE

Brett Whitacre

Brett is a self-taught American artist living and working in Northern Illinois. His art is inspired by a mix of vintage and modern advertising as well as American history. Upon moving to Chicago in 2000, he began collecting otherwise discarded materials from alleyways. He applies his imagery to the found objects juxtaposing old and new. The end result of his work tends to have a strong modern feel contrasted with a rustic warmth.

CRE8IV Projects:
2019 CRE8IV Mural
2021 CRE8IV Mural
2021 CRE8IV Mural
2022 CRE8IV Mural
2022 CRE8IV Mural

MOLLY Z

Molly Z

Molly has worked many years as a finely detailed illustrator, contracting with agencies, product manufacturers and many different clients, always looking for a way to make beautiful art that affects our daily lives. She has created many large-scale works of art, public art for museums, schools, and businesses and has produced live art murals for major industry conferences and special events.

CRE8IV Project:
2019 CRE8IV Mural