UA Alumna Collaborates On Chicago’s Navy Pier Re-Design

Our Alumni Spotlight Series focuses on UA art alumni who are in the midst of an art career now, whether they are continuing with schooling or have taken their art skills out into the work world.

Chicago’s Navy Pier, one of the top tourist destinations in the Midwest, took on a newly energized look this summer with the help of a few artists, including recent UA art alumna Alayna N. Pernell.

The new mural on Chicago’s Navy Pier. Photo courtesy Alayna N. Pernell.

A new mural, commissioned by the Design Museum of Chicago and titled Postcards to Chicago, uses the Pier’s highly recognizable landmarks in a brightly designed mural that faces out across Lake Michigan. The mural is the first project in an ongoing public art program for Navy Pier.

Alayna N. Pernell, courtesy of the artist.

Heflin, Alabama, native and 2019 graduate Alayna Pernell photographed one of Navy Pier’s iconic landmarks, the Wave Wall Staircase, for the mural. Then, her photo was “translated into a green graphic representation,” Pernell said, “one of Navy Pier’s brand colors along with magenta and blue. The Wave Wall Staircase is one of the Pier’s icons along with the Centennial Wheel, Lake Michigan, and the USS Chicago Anchor.” The iconic motifs were used as design elements in the mural.

“The 700-foot-long, 90-foot-tall, vibrant mural,” Pernell explained, “was created as a way to make the visual experience of Navy Pier both appealing and meaningful. It was also created in order to make art more accessible to Chicagoans and visitors to the city.”

Alayna N. Pernell, Wave Wall Staircase at Navy Pier in Chicago. Courtesy of the artist.

Pernell is a second-year MFA student in photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). In 2019, she graduated from The University of Alabama summa cum laude with a BA in studio art with a focus in photography. Among her recent exhibitions are Come Together, Right Now, at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia; This is a Movement, Not a Moment, in the ARTivism Initiative, Worcester, Mass.; and Too Tired for 2020, part of the Too Tired Project, based in Vermont.

A detail of Chicago’s new mural at Navy Pier.

Pernell writes about her studies at SAIC: “In my interdisciplinary practice, I critically examine and analyze experiences Black women face and have faced throughout history. I am in the process of creating a body of work that revolves around the question: What can visual art tell us about – not only the way Black women were depicted throughout art history – but also how they were treated throughout global history, resulting in their lack of mental and physical care? By working through this question using my research from various archives and critical texts, I am not only critiquing the history of the exploitation of Black women through the lens of visual art but also offering a new way of engaging with the Black female body without it being predicated on exploitation or abuse.”

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.