The west wall of the Riverside Arts Center (above) will be home to a new mural, slated to be painted in July by Dutch artist Collin van der Sluijs, whose striking South Loop mural in 2016 featuring a red-headed woodpecker amid a tangle of stems and jewel-toned flora will be reprised. (Bob Uphues/Editor)

A Dutch artist whose bold, vibrant murals depicting birds, flora and other themes of the natural world have won acclaim here in the U.S. and internationally has been tapped to paint a mural on the west wall of the Riverside Arts Center, 32 E. Quincy St., in July.

Collin van der Sluijs at work in his studio. | Photo by Iris van der Heijden

Collin van der Sluijs is perhaps best known in Chicago for his 2016 eight-story tall mural in the South Loop at 1006 S. Michigan Ave., depicting a four-story tall woodpecker amid a tangle of stems and jewel-toned flowers.

That mural is now obscured by new development, but its main image – the woodpecker – will make a return appearance as the central feature of the Riverside mural. Van der Sluijs and his team are tentatively scheduled to paint the mural over five days, from July 10-15, in conjunction with a solo exhibition of his work at Vertical Gallery in Chicago from July 9-30.

“As long as I’ve been on the board, there’s been talk of doing something with that wall,” said Jeremy Black, the president of the RAC’s board of directors since 2018. “When Collin’s name came up, everybody bought in. We all trusted it was going to be great, because his work is of such high caliber.”

The connection between the arts center and Van der Sluijs was made through RAC board member Joseph Fitzgerald, who has helped coordinate other mural projects featuring the Dutch artist’s work in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago and Berwyn.

Collin van der Sluijs painted this mural in Chicago’s South Loop in 2016. The woodpecker will be reprised as a main image in the Riverside mural.

The west wall of the Riverside Arts center is home to a faded, rather monotone mural depicting half-timbered, vaguely central European architecture, perhaps painted as a nod to Riverside’s one-time large Czech population. It’s been there for decades.

“As times change, you want to be more reflective of the community that’s out there,” Fitzgerald said.

A preliminary sketch of the mural provided to RAC by Van der Sluijs shows that red-headed woodpecker as the main feature, along with stems and flora reminiscent of the South Loop original. Fitzgerald said the finished product would be similar in its impact, using bold colors and stretching across the entire two-story wall, possibly including the section of the second floor that is set back.

Collin van der Sluijs provided the Riverside Arts Center a preliminary sketch of what the Riverside mural will look like. RAC board member Joseph Fitzgerald, who has worked with the artists previously on other murals, said the finished product will “mimic the look and feel” of his 2016 mural in Chicago.

“It’s going to mimic the look and feel of the one on Michigan Avenue,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s going to be as detailed and eye-popping. Collin has decided it’s going to be a blue-ish hue in the background which will really pop out the bird and other stylized elements.”

Amador Valenzuela, a Riverside resident and owner/creative director of Black Book Studio, a design and animation studio headquartered across the street from RAC, will document the mural painting with time-lapse video using a drone.

The bird theme is perfect for Riverside, Fitzgerald said, due to its Audubon designation as an Important Bird Area and its location along the Mississippi Flyway for migratory birds.

With the mural on tap to be painted in about a month, RAC is in the midst of raising funds to pay for the roughly $10,000 cost. According to Fitzgerald, they are on their way with donations from RAC and a few private donors.

However, they need to raise about $8,000, so RAC is also soliciting donations from the public, who can find out more about the project and how to donate at

You can also help RAC spread the word through yard signs that will be available after June 15 and can be picked up at the Riverside Arts Center during gallery hours, which are Thursday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.