At first glance, Scott Urban looks like he just walked out of the woods to personally hand you a manifesto of indeterminate ideology which he has just finished writing. He’s kind of dirty; his fingernails, his clothes, maybe even his hair, and he wears a sometimes gnarly beard which he likes to stroke when he becomes engaged in conversation. Upon engaging him, however, it becomes clear that he is not, in fact, some sort of plot-devising back-woods dweller who grows his own psychedelic mushrooms. Rather, he is an artist.
When he told us (your grippinglyauthentic! correspondents) that he relocated his workshop to Chicago’s River North neighborhood, we were more than a little surprised. He had been running his business, Urban Spectacles, out of a 100 year-old Rogers Park home which was, to say the least, in disrepair. The home still had it’s amazing vintage features – ornately carved wooden pillars and built-ins, unpainted crown molding throughout the main floor, and ceilings high enough to fly a kite in – but aside from that, the place was falling apart, which fit him perfectly. Urban, who for the last five years has sustained himself by designing and hand-carving spectacles of wood, vinyl, and aluminum, also appears to be in a near constant state of something like disrepair, maybe dishevelment.
“These people are not going to know what the hell happened to the corner of Orleans and Huron,” he laughed.
River North is an exponentially more wealthy neighborhood than Rogers Park. It’s the Gallery District: clean, safe, polished and professional (Tiffany Kim is right around the corner); Knowing the neighborhood, with its posh galleries and lofts, the new high-rises and upscale restaurants, we thought maybe Urban was leaving his roots in dilapidation and moving up in the world, maybe turning his small, homegrown business into something more. After stepping into his new workshop, however, we were reassured to the contrary – at least about the dilapidation.