After this year’s brutal, road-cracking winter, New York could use someone like Jim Bachor. The 51-year-old Chicago man has made a name for himself by filling potholes in the Windy City and capping them off with custom mosaic tiles. He started performing this public service in 2014 and is still at it. Like certain veteran street artists, he dons safety gear and works in plain sight. Despite the illegality of his work, the cops don’t fuck with him. I asked Bachor a few questions about his ongoing beautification project.
When and why did you start this project?
I developed an interest in ancient history after visiting Europe for the first time in late 1990s. This in turn led me to ancient art and then ancient mosaic art. Its durability astounded me – 2000 year old mosaics look exactly like the artist intended today! I love the permanence of the art form. Been working on the art form on the side ever since – potholes are a never ending, annual problem – I thought maybe I could try and ‘solve’ this annual, temporary pothole fix with the durable art form I like so much. As to the concepts for this project… potholes are universally hated/despised no matter who you are – rich, poor, old, young, etc, and ice cream is (almost) universally loved – I like the contrast of juxtaposing something “bad” with something “good.”
What does the city of Chicago think of your project?
The city said they like the spirit of the campaign but I should leave the work to professionals.
Have the authorities contacted you?
Nope. Even the cops drive by and pay no attention – with my orange vest and traffic cones I just look like a city worker spending too much time fixing one pothole.
What do you think other municipalities can learn from your art?
Hmmm. I haven’t really thought about that. I’m not really speaking to the city government saying “fix these potholes, there’s a million of them!” I think until some new technique is developed, potholes and fixing them will be an annual issue that will keep people working. I actually sympathize with the city to some degree. The solution is probably to pave every street, but that won’t happen because of the costs. Instead, my art is more about putting an unexpected smile on the everyday joe’s face as he or she goes through his/her day.
(Photos: Jim Bachor)