Works In Process
Lead Artist: Renee Robbins
Location: Underpass at Lake Shore Drive and Fullerton Avenue
Chicago Public Art Group is delighted to partner with Renee Robbins to transform the Lake Shore Drive and Fullerton Avenue underpass into a work of art. This proposal is to design and fabricate a mural for both the North and South walls of the underpass, each side approximately 14’ h x 110’ w, or 1600 square feet.
Lead Artists: Mirtes Zwierzynski and Ruben Aguirre
Location: 465 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60610
Artists Mirtes Zwierzynski and Ruben Aguirre's design is inspired by natural shapes and elements, with symbolism referencing flowers, the moon, the lake and the sunset as a metaphor for daily life of the residents of the building. The column sides are inspired by symbolic elements of design from African American quilting and textile design. Techniques used will be: mosaic on the column sides, as well as on the strips on the East wall, with the larger portion being spray paint.
Locations: General Headquarters/Cumming Square, Trailside Museum of Natural History, and Thatcher Woods Pavilion, in the Oak Park/River Forest Community
Lead Artists: Josh Lantzy, Laura Miracle, Jamie Topper, and Tracy Van Duinen
CPAG will work with teens from Oak Park River Forest High School to design and create 3 public sculptures at three locations: General Headquarters/Cumming Square, Trailside Museum of Natural History, and Thatcher Woods Pavilion, in the Oak Park/River Forest Community. The sculptures will be created from cordwood masonry and other materials. The artists will conduct 6, two hour design workshops with up to 12 teens per a session on Saturdays from February to April. These design workshops will take place at OPRFHS at address as coordinated through CPAG. In June, they will lead to 2 four hour build workshops with the same teens. Two teens from the group will be hired to continue to assist with the building of the sculpture.
For more information on recent projects and to find out about upcoming workshops, projects, and volunteer opportunities, please contact us at email@example.com or follow our social media.
Lead Artists: John Pitman Weber and Anna Murphy
Location: 2957 N Hoyne Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
Chicago Public Art Group has partnered with Alcott College Prep to utilize the power of art to educate and build community with the students and faculty at Alcott College Prep High School. For this project, Alcott students were led by CPAG artists John Pitman Weber and Anna Murphy, as well as Alyssa Medina, Alcott’s art teacher. Together, they created a 3D sculpture depicting the message “Love” using painted papier–mâché and mosaic tiles.
Lead Artists: Rahmaan Barnes & Max Sansing
Assistant Artists: Miguel A. Del Real, Epifanio Monarrez, Bobby Price, Elizabeth Reyes, & Delilah Salgado
Location: Underpasses at 2230 S. Central Park Ave.
and 2200 S. Trumbull Ave.
The murals, commissioned by the 22nd ward Alderman Ricardo Munoz and managed by Chicago Public Art Group, were developed to celebrate and bridge each neighborhood’s spirit,
diversity and history, while promoting their unity.
Alderman Munoz and community leaders wanted to have the viaducts represent a bridge to each community, Little Village a primarily Hispanic neighborhood and North Lawndale an African
American neighborhood. It also represented a space for artists from both communities to create art that celebrated each neighborhood’s spirit and diversity.
Lead Artists: Sam Kirk & Sandra Antongiorgi
Location: 16th & Blue Island in Pilsen
An extension of Aurelio Díaz’s Galería del Barrio mural, this new mural aims to increase awareness and encourage a dialogue around unity and acceptance by celebrating underrepresented women of diverse backgrounds.
Lead Artists: John Pitman Weber and Sonja Henderson
Location: Marquette Park
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Living Memorial Project commemorates the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's historic march through Chicago's Marquette Park. Artists John Pitman Weber and Sonja Henderson carved three 10 foot high stelas out of wet brick. The bricks were then delivered to Chicago's last remaining brick yard, Glen-Gary in Marseilles, Illinois. The Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) coordinated a diverse group of organizations, institutions and individuals to advance the project. Find out more at mlkmemorialchicago.org or click here to view news coverage.
Lead Artists: Rahmaan Barnes, Damon Lamar Reed, Max Sansing, & Bernard Williams
Location: 66th and 67th Street west of Dorchester Avenue
These murals reflect the local history and contemporary life of Woodlawn on three very large underpass walls and five rows of columns covering a total of 12,500 square feet.
Lead Artists: Andy Bellomo & Rahmaan Barnes
Assistant Artist: Anna Murphy
Location: 1241 W. 19th Street
Students created essays about how they feel about their school and the artists incorporated these words into a mural that faces the playground.
Lead Artists: Alfonso Piloto Nieves-Ruiz & Julia Sowles-Barlow
Location: 2400 S. Marshall Blvd.
The artists worked with students to create hundreds of handmade porcelain tiles that make this balanced design outside the entrance of the school depicting indigenous narratives and symbols as identified by the students.
Lead Artist: Rahmaan Barnes
Location: 7141 S. Morgan St.
Unveiled at Excel Academy’s Graduates Over Guns celebration, this mural promotes the importance of graduating and non-violence.
Lead Artist: Mirtes Zwierzynski
Location: Daniel Webster Elementary School, 4055 W. Arthington St.
Artist Mirtes Zwierzynski worked with students to create a Kite mosaic on Webster Elementary School's wall near the newly created garden.
Lead Artists: Phil Schuster & Adele Moss
Location: 2828 N. Oak Park Ave.
Carved ceramic plants from around the world and the word “peace” in multiple languages accent this new garden at Locke School.
Lead Artist: Bernard Williams
Location: 5252 W. Palmer St.
Artist Bernard Williams worked in partnership with the art teacher to create a series of indoor vinyl mural installations based on students' drawings of the school's social emotional learning goals.
Lead Artist: Julia Sowles-Barlow
Assistant Artist: Bryant Jones
Location: 3223 W. Franklin Blvd.
A series of mandalas were created by artist Julia Sowles-Barlow with help from Westinghouse students and teachers, and assistant artist Bryant Jones. They were then installed by Brian McGlade.
Lead Artist: Julia Sowles-Barlow
Location: 1015 W. Howard St. Evanston, IL 60202
Artist Julia Sowles-Barlow and the CJE community, including seniors, family members, and staff, worked collaboratively to create a Pomegranate Tree Mural Installation for CJE Senior Life.
Lead Artists: Andy Bellomo and Bernard Williams
Location: 2027 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
Chicago Public Art Group artists Andy Bellomo and Bernard Williams collaborated with the Chinese American Museum and the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce to create a mural to commemorate the 100th year of Chinatown. Located in Chicago's Chinatown Community, the mural responds to the need for the community to highlight its past and future with an innovative mix of painted Chinese traditional painting techniques, glass and 3D sculpture.
Lead Artist: Damon Lamar Reed
Location: 2745 West Roosevelt Road
Bricolage mural created by students and parents.
Lead artist: Julia Sowles-Barlow
Location: Keller Regional Gifted Center, 3020 West 108th Street
An exploration of the life of a dragonfly on the benches of a new garden.
Lead Artist: Julia Sowles-Barlow
Location: Urshel Pavillion in Valparaiso, Indiana
Mixed media mosaic celebrates summer and winter at a new community center.
Lead Artist: Andy Bellomo
Location: Osterman Beach located at Sheridan and Ardmore
"Come to Light," the project at the Osterman Beach Comfort Station is complete! It is a beautifully sparkling and lively multi-media project. Congrats to Lead Artist Andy Bellomo and Assisting Artists Will Nicholson and Brett Whitacre. The project was made possible by the support of the Chicago Park Distrcit and is located just east of Sheridan and Ardmore on the North Side.
Lead Artist: Phil Shuster
Location: 1803 N. Albany
Phil Shuster led clay workshops with groups from the Chicago Park District and the Trust for Public Lands. At these workshops participants created relief elements which were incorporated into a bench for the newly designed Albany Whipple Playground located at 1803 N. Albany. Phil also created the whimsical spider sculpture (shown above) as the focal point of the playground. The spider sculpture was cast in fiberglass and installed as a play component. Funded by: Chicago Park District and Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail
Lead Artists: Juan Carlos Perez, Patricia Sotarello and William Nicholson
Location: Bloomingdale Ave. & Whipple Ave.
Juan Carlos Perez, Patricia Sotarello and William Nicholson worked with a group of neighborhood youth from both Logan Square and Humboldt Park to create a new mural that explores the role of the Bloomingdale Trail in the community in conjunction with the role that women play in our daily lives past, present and future. The mural features community members' portraits and poetry from influential female authors. Funded by: Field Foundation & Chicago Foundation for Women
Lead Artist: Carolyn Elaine
Location: 834 E. 50th Street
Lead artist Carolyn Elaine worked with youth from Reavis Elementary School researching influential African American women of importance to the south side community of Bronzeville. Portraits of these women were photo-transferred onto tiles and incorporated into the mosaic piece.
The central image of the mosaic is Dr. Margaret Burroughs with excerpts from her monumental poem, What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?, published in 1968. The section of the mural to Dr. Burroughs' right, anchored by an image of Jane Addams, displays prominent African American women of the past who were influences to Dr. Burroughs. The section to her left displays prominent women who were influenced by Dr. Burroughs. Funded by: Chicago Foundation for Women
Lead Restoration Artist: Bernard Williams
Original Artist: Astrid Fuller
Location: 57th St. & Lake Park Ave.
Bernard Williams restored and renewed the Spirit of Hyde Park, a historic Hyde Park mural between Lake Park and Stony Island on 57th Street. This iconic mural from the early 1970's depicts episodes in the history of Hyde Park over the previous 100 years. Bernard Williams worked with Astrid Fuller, the original artist, to identify sections of the original mural for integration into a new mural design that will carry the same name - the Spirit of Hyde Park. Bernard brought his design skills to bear on new research and understanding about the historic and evolving sense of Hyde Park. Funded by: University of Chicago.
Lead Artists: Ginny Sykes, Augustina Droze, and Jim Brenner
Location: Bartlett Ravine in the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve
Ginny Sykes and Augustina Droze along with Jim Brenner worked with Openlands on this multi-media mural installation at the Bartlett Ravine within the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve as a part of Openlands' Lakeshore Preserve Project. The installation includes non-woven painted elements, glass tile mosaics, and metal details that all together speak to the complexities and patterns that exist in the natural setting around the mural. Visit CPAG's Facebook page to see more images of this stunning and beautiful mural. Funded by: Openlands
Lead Artist: Rahmaan Barnes
Location: Cook County Day Reporting Center
The Cook County Day Reporting Center is a one-of-a-kind supervision program that provided services and direction for pre-trial, non-violent offenders. This community-based corrections program requires offenders to report to the center for daily sessions in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, violence prevention training, literacy and GED courses and job skills training.
Rahmaan Barnes worked with participants of the DRC program to create an inspirational, positive spray painted mural for the entrance of the center. Each participant contributed a drawing that was later collaged into the final mural. Funded by: Cook County Day Reporting Center.
For over 45 years our artists have worked with and for Chicago communities to create collaborative, high-quality public art.
Chicago, “hog butcher to the world,” has little public art dealing with its rich legacy of workers’ movements. This artwork, by artist William Walker, is among the nation’s most powerful labor murals, depicting the history of the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butchers Workmen Union. Painted on the former site of the union’s Local office, the right side of the mural shows monumental workmen of all races going about their slaughterhouse jobs with a quiet dignity; the left side shows union representatives and workers confronting bosses, demanding a union contract. The scene takes place on a chessboard, a recurrent Walker motif for representing competing social forces.
This mural, by artists Mitchell Caton and Nii Oti Zambezi, was adjacent to the Chicago Daily Defender building, the home of one of the country’s oldest and most respected black-owned newspapers. The mural is a montage of figures, designs, and text that dramatizes the richness of African history and culture. It was painted as an indictment of the then still ruling, apartheid regime in South Africa. The imagery also portrays the local history of African-American journalism.
Volunteers from the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union were involved in the design process of the mural as well as its execution. Artists Nina Smoot-Cain and Cynthia Weiss taught volunteers some design basics and led them through a cut paper drawing session. At first, participants were extremely apprehensive. Although they had worked with their hands their whole lives, they never had created work of their own design. Most of the volunteers gradually came to enjoy their own work. Cain and Weiss worked for two weeks at pulling these designs together and their efforts resulted in a design drawing as 1930’s realism and 1980’s new wave.
The work took on a rhythm from the start. The union provided sewing machines and the volunteers came ready to lend their skills: basting, cutting, machine and hand sewing. The exquisitely intricate mural was quilted upon completion and installed in the lobby of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union Hall.
One of the largest community murals in Chicago, I Welcome Myself… encompasses an entire railroad underpass. Under the direction of lead artists Olivia Gude, Marcus Jefferson, and Jon Pounds, this mural was designed and created by more than one hundred neighborhood residents, the mural symbolically and literally “bridges the gap” between the neighborhoods of the predominantly African-American Roseland and the predominantly white and Latino Pullman.
The Pullman (north) wall is an intricate patchwork of decorative patterns incorporating designs used in the ancestral art of area residents. Other images include an art fair to which residents bring portraits of George Pullman, A. Philip Randolph, and Eugene Debs, founder of the American Railway Union and the American Socialist party, and leader of the Pullman Strike. On the Roseland side, a depiction of the farms formerly in this area is contrasted with the cultural history of an African mask. On both sides of the underpass, neighbors work together to preserve their homes and heritage.
Incorporating concrete relief, this mural, by artists Marcus Akinlana and Joe Matunis, on a formerly hidden wall exposed to a new parking lot presents Benu, the golden phoenix of ancient Egypt, as a metaphor for the economic and cultural revival of the South Shore community. A Moses-like figure leads the people through parted, concrete waves of water. All eyes are turned to the dynamic figure of Oya, the woman warrior orisha who symbolizes revolutionary change. Interwoven with the wings of Benu, are images of local landmarks as well as street signs prescribing self-pride, respect for others, and cultural awareness as the route to community strength and vitality. The mural was restored by the artists in 1995 after the wall was tuckpointed.
Honoring Humboldt Park’s predominantly Puertorriqueño heritage (Boriquen is the island’s original Arawak Indian name), this mural, by artist Hector Duarte, depicts the Puerto Rican flag flying from the island, across the sea, and across Lake Michigan into the Chicago skyline. In turn, the flag unfurls from Chicago and returns to the island. The circle of flags suggests the ongoing exchange of culture and ideas between the two communities.
For this oral history mural on the Metra underpass in Hyde Park, artist Olivia Gude asked various passersby, “Where are you coming from? Where are you going?” The images and words are drawn from photos of the people and their taped responses, which ranged from the mundane to the political to the metaphysical.
This spraypaint and acrylic mural on Clemente High School, by artists Olivia Gude and Dzine, celebrates the strengths and contributions of Third World women. The work combines Dzine’s graffiti lettering with Gude’s painterly images. It was inspired by the words of Julia de Burgos, the noted Puerto Rican poet; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the seventeenth-century Mexican nun and poet who is often referred to as the “first feminist of the Americas”; and Sojourner Truth, the African-American liberationist.
The mural does not depict the women. Instead, giant eyes stare at the viewer accompanied by words of these inspirational women. The women are thus presented as subjects of their own lives, rather than as passive objects for the gaze of onlookers.
This groundbreaking piece, the result of a CPAG-initiated Spray Mural Workshop coordinated by artists Olivia Gude and Dzine, provided muralists and graffiti artists the unique opportunity to learn about each other’s techniques and styles. The spray and brush artists formed pairs to collaborate on sections of the 350-foot-long wall. The entire block-long mural was completed in a mere two days! The artists formed teams of two or three, each team was given 50 feet of wall and the shared theme. Airless sprayers and spray cans were used alone and in combination with stencils and brushed paint. Arts for All was the kickoff to a series of unique NEA-sponsored spray-mural explorations in 1993.
Artists included: Casper, Dzine, Olivia Gude, Janet Jaffkee, Turbado Marabou, Brian C. Morris, Greg Penrice, Tim Portlock, Jon Pounds, Jesus Rodriguez, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Chris Silva, Solo, Dorian Sylvain, and Bernard Williams.
One of the three pieces created by the muralist/spraycan artist collaboration of Dzine and Olivia Gude in the summer of 1993, the mural combines Ndebele mural designs from South Africa, graffiti “wildstyle” lettering, and huge, carefully rendered community building blocks.
The design incorporates the building’s chimney--turning it into a vivid pink arrow shooting downward, creating a painted explosion on the ground at the foot of the mural. The texts on the blocks are quotes from North Lawndale residents about what it takes to create a better future. “Respect your elders.” “Fight racism.” “If you say, ‘can’t,’ you won’t.”
This first in a series of collaborations between Olivia Gude and spray can artist Dzine appears to cling to the corner of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Boys and Girls Club. Celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of King’s “I have a dream” speech, the mural also asks Langston Hughes’s question, “What happens to a dream deferred?”
The work includes graffiti-style lettering, naturalistic portraits of King and Gandhi, and quotes by many Africans and African Americans on the importance of dreams and dreaming. Silhouettes of civil rights advocates designed by neighborhood teens and children march throughout the work.
Pearl Cleage’s question, “What do you pack when you pursue a dream and what do you leave behind?” suggests that each person must learn how to honor cultural legacy and be open to new ideas and new values.
Located in the playlot across the street from Operation PUSH headquarters, this mural, by artist Bernard Williams, celebrates the accomplishments of Jessie ‘Ma’ Houston, a veteran civil rights and prisoner rights activist, and early supporter of Operation PUSH. Prior to designing the mural, Williams distributed mural announcements and invited community members to a meeting. The main community voices that emerged were relatives of ‘Ma’ Houston. The daughter of ‘Ma’ Houston, Helen Sinclair, contributed significantly to the design with her convincing oral history on her mother and photographs from Operation PUSH. The research and oral history highlighted ‘Ma’ Houston’s extraordinary ministry to unloved and forgotten inmates of our nation’s prisons as well as her dedication to Operation PUSH and civil rights. The mural design incorporated a portrait of ‘Ma’ Houston and details of her life.
An early major work by Williams, the juxtaposition of African patterning and volumetric figures is also homage to the aesthetic influence of the Caton and Jones mural collaboration. The mural features a large portrait of Blues guitarist, Johnny Shines (1915-1992), representing the voice of African-Americans who struggled in and out of the American south. There is a procession of civil rights marchers and a portrait of a prisoner who speaks of ‘Ma’ Houston. This window also serves as a reminder to youth of the results of anti-social behavior.
The design for the mural, by artists Dzine, La Force Alphabetick, and John Pitman Weber, incorporates and reinterprets Northwest Youth Outreach’s logo. The logo is expands to create arms that reach out and present important images for the youths of the community. These include the importance of an awareness of time in their lives, ecology and the environment, computers as the cutting edge of the future, musical references, and a graduation cap. Near the bottom, modified street signs carry images created by younger Northwest Youth Outreach youths. La Force Alphabetik is an artist collective based in Paris.
This aesthetically challenging mural, by Tim Portlock and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, reflects the heterogeneity of the artist team--students from Prologue Alternative High School--and of the polyglot Uptown community itself. Eschewing a singular narrative for a style foregrounding experimental collaboration, the team drew from a variety of artistic and literary sources--comics, collage, classical painting, WPA murals, graffiti, and William Carlos Williams’s poem cycle Paterson--to present a complex vision of the neighborhood indeed, of America. This mural explores the notion of “community” and the role that public art can play in defining various communities within a diverse urban neighborhood.
This mural, by Marcus Akinlana, documents the migration of African Americans from the South to Chicago, specifically to the Douglas Boulevard and Grand Avenue area, after World War II. The mural contrasts a rural, agrarian past with the proliferation of urban industry and entertainment. This theme was decided in conjunction with Donnelley staff and community members as a relevant and vital artistic statement for the near Southside community. The Donnelley Center is located around a once thriving business and economic hub of the African-American community that was spun from the great migration. It is hoped that the mural will serve as both a landmark testimony to that legacy as well as uplift a community that has been plagued by the difficult social conditions facing inner city America.
The theme of the mural is the historical and profound interchange between the ancient indigenous nations of Meso-America and Africa. The purpose for selecting this theme was to increase the awareness of the shared cultural legacy and societal similarities between African-Americans and Latino students and faculty at Farragut High School. Latinos and African-Americans compose the two largest ethnic groups at Farragut and it is hoped that the murals and the stories that they tell will help to foster a sense of unity amongst this school community, which has been suffering from ethnic conflict.
Approximately 30 students and 10 faculty members participated in this project under the direction of Akinlana and Chavéz. The students learned mural making process, basic carpentry skills, group dynamics, and little-known, historical data pertaining to the common links in their ancestry.
The students were also shown slide lectures, presentations, and historical videos. They participated in collective reading sessions and preliminary intellectual work necessary to the whole process of mural making. In addition, the artists created a documentary video about this project, that was shot and edited by and with the students of Farragut High School.
This mural was designed by the artists, Olivia Gude and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, based on drawings from the children of Nobel School. The artists conducted workshops with each class and asked students to share experiences of travel and journeying. The artists wove many myths and stories about journeys into the mural and then shared these with the school faculty so that these stories could become part of the school’s literary culture and history. The mural was painted by the artists during the school day allowing students to watch the evolution and completion.
This is a mural about coming and going, about journeys of the heart, mind, and body. It begins on both ends, but does not end in the middle. Journeys of life are overlapping and crisscrossing. It is a mural about the sadness of saying good byes and the challenges of moving to new places.
Some of the characters you may recognize are the familiar foursome from the Wizard of Oz. But look again, who is that Tin Man in the Armani suit? Why is he lost and where is he trying to go? Will his map show him the way? And look at Dorothy’s companion, the Scarecrow. His black and red suit suggests that perhaps he is more than he seems at first glance—Elegba at the crossroads?
In several scenes, we see Psyche dressed in blue carrying the fateful lamp, carrying a bottle to be filled with magical water, and enthusiastically setting out on her quest in shorts and running shoes. Nearby is a winged man. Is he Psyche’s lost Cupid or perhaps Icarus whose journey is doomed by his pride?
On the far right of the mural, the legendary Quetzacoatl leads his people on a journey away from the abandoned city. When people asked him, “Where are you going?” he would reply only, “ I am going to learn.”
Notice the maps near the center of the mural—in which one is the U.S. “upside down?” Who determines what is right-side up? Arrows show some of the paths of immigration that the families of the school’s students have made. The tornadoes remind us that unfortunately in this world, not all journeys are voluntary. Sometimes economic or political conditions move people forcibly.
One of our heroines negotiates treacherous storm-tossed waters in a fragile paper boat. Sometimes life seems like that. She sees other boats, other journeys, other stories, and reaches out her hands in a gesture of help and welcome even as she rides the choppy waves herself.
Aptly sited on either side of a train underpass in North Pullman, this mural, by Bernard Williams, honors the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the nation’s first black labor union, as well as its spirited leader A. Philip Randolph. Randolph is featured on the south wall in a wall-high portrait and on the north wall, pointing an accusing finger at George Pullman. Also portrayed is Milton Webster, the Chicago director of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The mural includes images of protesting porters holding picket signs. A porter proudly marches behind the stylishly hatted women and a representative of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers stares sternly from beneath his work helmet.
Located in the heart of the New Chinatown neighborhood in Uptown, this stylish mural, by Juan Angel Chavez, addresses the Southeast Asian immigrant experience. Cosponsored by the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, the mural depicts refugees, their arrival to the U.S., the establishment of a community, and the different paths youths may take to enrich themselves as well as their community.
The mural, by C. Siddha Sila, on the side of the Molade child care center faces the children’s playground. It illustrates the children and grandparents together as a family doing fun, loving, caring activities as a unit. The young people are engaged in learning through play, classroom activities, and from the elders. The angels in the middle represent the title, New Life, New Love. The love shown by the elders to children represents their “new life” through the “new love” they express to the children. The purple background color expresses a spiritual feeling of inner desire to move outward from purple to purple but still shades of the one feeling. The angels in the middle area are white and gold. These children are painted in bright colors and in pastels; this indicates their energy of life and their need to be looked at and treated softly.
Enlivening the entire façade of Fellowship House, a Chicago Youth Center in the neighborhood of Bridgeport, this mural, by Olivia Gude and Juan Angel Chávez, addresses issues of racism and explores the question of how people decide whom they consider an “other” and whom they consider a “fellow.” Although the mural deals with serious “adult” issues, only paintings of children are included because the artists wanted to create a wall that welcomed neighborhood youth to the center for fun and education.
There were many wonderful, energetic, and hardworking youth artists on the project, from the Fellowship House groups and from surrounding communities. On the many rainy days that summer, the artists conducted discussions and written exercises exploring the social construction of racist attitudes with the youths. When not able to paint, the youth artists also interviewed neighborhood residents and created silhouettes of them to use in the design of the mural.
There is no single place from which one needs to begin to “read” the mural. The mural deisgn alternates between photorealistic images, diagrams, text, children’s drawings, silhouettes, and comic-book-like imagery in its exploration of the creation of “fellows” and “others” in culture.
In the mural tradition, there are many works about the bridging of difference; this mural is about the creation of difference. This is a hopeful idea--if one assumes that difference is natural then one starts from the assumption that much effort must be spent to overcome natural divisions. If many of these differences are social constructions then racism itself is a social construction, which has taken and continues to take, a great deal of human effort to construct and maintain. One way to make change is to see how racism is constructed and to withdraw our human energies as far as possible from the social energies that create it.
Silhouettes of many community people, youth artists, Fellowship House staff, and passersby are a unifying motif in the mural. The silhouettes are grouped in various ways to suggest the kinds of categorization that we impose on unique individuals.
Toward the left side of the mural one finds the “Culture Machine,” made up of objects that disperse information (such as televisions, books, encyclopedias, trademarks, surveillance cameras) and parts of the machinery of industrial production (conveyor belts, cranes, presses). The Culture Machine produces blocks of racial stereotypes and stores them for future use in “ appropriate” situations. Adults, teens, and children from the Fellowship House community designed the racial stereotype blocks.
The Stereotype Blocks show contrasting examples of how we are trained to constantly categorize people without really thinking. Examples included “Those people are stinky; these people are clean. Those people are bad drivers; these people are good drivers. Those people eat nasty food; these people eat tasty food. These people are social drinkers; those people are drunks.”
The Stereotype Blocks are carried along a conveyor belt and inserted into a projection machine (a human head). Now instead seeing with its own eyes, the head merely projects the images it has been programmed with onto the outlines of people. It is now predetermined if you are a “friendly fellow” or a “threatening other.”
Other notable images to the left of center include a twenty-foot tall figure of a young woman holding a sign that reads, “Erase the Hate. We pledge to fight against racism in our community.” This image is based on a photograph taken at the anti-racism press conference held by Fellowship House youth in the spring.
Another photo inspired image is of four cute children, giggling for the camera. This picture of Black, Latino, and White children playing together is based on candid photos at the Bridgeport Homes playground--children were not posed to fake interracial play groups for the mural. All the mural images of multi-racial groups are based on the many, actual cross-racial friendships at the Center and the surrounding Bridgeport Homes community. Also in this section, an arrow originating near the Black children point to upward and downward arrows connected to images of buildings, referring to concern about property values as a form of racism and as the justification for “benign” racist attitudes.
A vertical column of smiling young women visually dominates the right side of the mural. Nearby, a linear diagram of the girls substitutes generic letters for their individual faces. In another chart, a numbered value scale of flesh tones reminds viewers of the social practice of racism in which people are labeled and described by their skin color. The selection of silhouettes in this area references the social categorization of people by their hair and the social problem of young men of color being persistently seen and represented as a potential danger.
A tall wall perpendicular to the main face of the mural can be seen from Halsted a block away. It contains a vivid yellow diamond shaped “street sign” of generic signage style figures showing an immigrant family (man, pregnant woman, baby, child) crossing into the neighborhood. This sign is surrounded by many tiny figures with packs and suitcases, walking hither and fro, reminding us that Bridgeport has always been a neighborhood of immigrants and that these immigrants have often been viewed with alarm by the now settled earlier immigrants who were themselves once labeled as “others.”
Further to the east, perplexed space aliens view the puzzling behavior of two youthful earthlings. The boys seen by the aliens as a white outline against a dark ground, are alternately confronting and ignoring each other. The aliens cannot understand the behavior; we, however, see the image of the boys repeated in black and white and regrettably our cultural heritage has taught us to understand that their anger and divisiveness is based on color of skin or gang allegiances represented by the color of clothing.
In the east alcove, a dramatically oversized portrait of a young girl stares back at a corresponding boy on the opposite end of the mural. The girl is depicted twice, once in black and white and once in color, referring again to the various value scales in the mural, which suggest the “fine” discriminations of a racially troubled society. These cute kids wear clothes that say “Fellow or Other?” What kind of a culture teaches people to ask that question about innocent children?
Matunis and Silva led a team of Gallery 37 youths in painting this 150-foot-long mural on a retaining wall for the Chicago Transit Authority elevated rail tracks with symbolic figures representing virtues (patience, wisdom, pride, charity, love) and vices (sloth, greed, duplicity, vanity, anger)-- a gigantic Patience, an hourglass figure with a numberless clock, bides her time on the wall. A portion of the mural is done in spraypaint, homage to the wall’s previous life as a CTA permission and non-permission graffiti site.
Painted with area youths on a wall behind the Gill Park fieldhouse, this mural, by artists Tim Portlock and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, focuses on the impact that gentrification, displacement, and redevelopment are having on the low-income, racially mixed Uptown neighborhood. Issues of particular concern to the art team were police harassment of youths and the lives of single, working mothers. The issues of women’s lives are repeatedly invoked in the work—a reference to the mural painted at the site in 1979--Women’s Equality, by Celia Radek and Cynthia Weiss (on which several of the teen artists’ parents or relatives had worked). Seeking fresh mural imagery, the artists created a series of scenes--a woman returning from her day job to the work of maintaining a household, and then finally treasuring a quiet moment to herself. The mural’s style was influenced by the work of painter David Hockney.
Serving the West Town community since 1899, Association House has helped generations of immigrants--now mostly Latino--make a meaningful life for themselves in Chicago. Kristal Pacheco and Veronica Werckmeister worked with Gallery 37 youths to extend another mural Breaking Barriers by Turbado Marabou and Veronica Werckmeister, with The Only Thing Keeping Me Down Is... Gravity. The combined mural and cracked-ceramic mosaic work features abstract and symbolic imagery on the theme of breaking barriers--whether of culture, race, language, or politics. The theme of the project was a product of a series of discussions motivated by the artists that brought up the questions: What makes you feel free? What is it you are doing when you feel most free? What do you do after you break a barrier? What effects are produced when a barrier is broken?
Incorporated into the abstract shapes of the design are three words: Imagine, Build, and Fly. These words are meant to inspire hope and call upon onlookers to take the rubble of a barrier broken and use it to build something, anything, that will take them to that place that makes them feel most free, to integrate themselves fully in a constructive process. The participants themselves are represented by their silhouettes within the floating red balls, bubbles, or planets that hover and mingle with the complex construction of the mural. This itself symbolizes the very individual experience one faces when a barrier is broken and indeed when a creative process is taken on.
The impetus for this project developed from the vision of Brother Denis at SuCasa. He believes strongly in utilizing art as a means of humanizing and enlivening spaces, both indoor and outdoor. The project lasted approximately two months. The mural, , by artists Mirtes Zwierzynski and Kiela Smith, reflects images related to the history and philosophy of SuCasa’s mission. The six central painted sections within the mural represent different expressions of the personal history of the guests and staff of SuCasa. Also some collaged portraits were included for remembrance of people who struggled for peace and social justice in the world. Hope was symbolized by using the silhouette of a little girl releasing a bird, symbol of peace. An additional design element that worked quite well was collaging thin strips of paper with the names of current and former staff, guests, and volunteers at SuCasa. This serves merely as a patterning element from distant view, but upon close inspection the viewer can read the names of all those who have touched SuCasa.
Joshua Sarantitis and Gallery 37 teens covered this 450-foot-long CTA retaining fence along the Discount Mega Mall parking lot with images and texts about their lives. The huge portraits are digitalized images of the youth participants. Alongside their computer portraits, teen artists created expressionistic, symbolic portraits of their inner selves. Running the length of the innovatively designed work is a poem, written by one of the youths, painted in 4-foot-high letters: “Look around you/Tell me what you see!/Do you see the earth’s true beauty?/All I see is humanity/When I walk around/All I see is people crying/And little kids dying/Why can’t we have unity?” The word “unity” closes the mural in “wildstyle” lettering.
This mural, by artists John Pitman Weber and Bernard Williams, at Orr Academy High School transformed a formidable blank wall into a jazzy collage of color, pattern, and realistic rendering. Echoing the modernist architecture of the building, the mural is loosely arranged in a rectangular grid that contains images related to family, culture, education, and community development. The inclusion of many images of transportation highlights one of the mural’s themes--the literal and metaphorical coming and going of people at the crossroads of urban life in this west Humboldt Park neighborhood.
Working together for the first time, the two master muralists incorporated their individual studio styles into the monumentally scaled work. They led a team of Youth Service Project/Gallery 37 teens in designing the piece, using a cut-paper collage technique inspired by the work of Romare Bearden.
Under lead artist Rob Moriarty, this mural was an experiment in collaboration by artists wishing to make a positive statement about a social concern-- police brutality. Working as a group and sometimes alone, imagery was developed and painted and revised in a process that mimicked the improvisational nature of the Wall of Respect. The mural was installed on a fence surrounding an abandoned lot. It remained in tact for several months.
Chris Silva and the assistants worked with fifteen incoming freshman students to create their high-flying vision of learning and human evolution. Panel murals can feel like relatively small, temporary paintings lost on a large wall. Silva’s innovative shaping and placement of the panels utilize the entire wall for its amusing and whimsical composition. Students developed drawings in Silva’s signature hip-hop-influenced cartoon-like style to represent their goals as trying to achieve flight. Birds, hybrid birdbooks, and angels frolic against a colorful geometric backdrop. The mural has a very energetic and youthful feel to it, which helps to identify the building as a high school.
The artists, Juan Chávez, Rob Moriarty, and Chris Silva, interested in collaboration elected to use a wide-open theme that would allow them to explore their various understandings and experiences of that theme. There was no attempt to resolve the aesthetic or content differences; multiple perspectives were acknowledged as being accurately expressive of the theme.
In 2000, artist Juan Angel Chávez gave disposable cameras to 12 youths and asked them to take pictures of their West Humboldt Park neighborhood. The images, both positive and negative, have been collaged together to create What We See--Lo Que Vemos, a 94-foot-long mural in the METRA viaduct at Hirsch and Monticello. The kids and seven volunteer artists helped paint the work, which was cosponsored by the Blocks Together community organization and was completed in the summer of 2001.
While not dwelling on the bad side, What We See presents an honest and multi-layered view of the students’ urban surroundings--from residents maintaining homes to youths playing sports to junked cars and stray dogs. Police cruise the streets while abandoned houses are saved from demolition.
The mural’s novel design was partly laid out on a computer. Superimposed over the collaged scenes are portraits of some of the youths along with their handwritten quotes, in English and Spanish, describing the neighborhood. Comments run the gamut from “Too much graffiti drawing, killings, & shooting in the neighborhood” to “I see people walking dogs, people hanging out, playing ball. You know, normal everyday things.”
Chávez and his crew expanded the definition of a “normal, everyday” mural.
In addition to producing new works of art, Chicago Public Art Group is dedicated to the restoration of historic pieces of community art.
Lead Artist: Sam Kirk
Location: 16th St. and Blue Island in Pilsen
Originally painted in 1976 under the direction of lead artist Aurelio Diaz, the overlapping faces display a variety of emotions reflecting a range of Mexican American identities and experiences.
Lead Artist: Marcos Raya
Assistant Artist: Amanda Mudrouich
Location: 18th St. & Western Ave.
Restoration of this iconic mural was done by the original artist, Marcos Raya. One particularly relevant new addition to this wall, which is one of oldest surviving outdoor antiwar murals in the country, depicts Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fighting over a missile.
55th Street and Lake Park, 1972
Under City Stone was created spontaneously on the street: passersby provided instant critique and stopped to pose for the artists. Colors were mixed directly on the wall. The inclusion of the poem Rapid Transit by James Agee mixed text and image in a way that has become almost commonplace today. Under City Stone influenced mural painters around the city, the nation, and the world.
Former resident and renowned Midwest muralist, Caryl Yasko, creator of Under City Stone will return to lead the restoration during the summer of 2008.
Ms. Yasko and Chicago Public Art Group believe the message of the mural is still relevant to the world today; we travel the world with determination, aware that our environment suffers from human degradation, however we believe our lives can make a difference.
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56th Street and Stony Island, 1977
Sometimes referred to as Children of Goodwill. Walker created this mural as a tribute to nearby Harte School. His daughter had attended school there and Walker wanted to express his appreciation for the school’s promotion of racial harmony. The tripartite mural, Walker’s personal favorite, includes a series of interlocking faces representing the potential unity of all races. Walker originally used interlocking faces in his work to symbolize brotherhood in the black community; in later works he painted faces of various hues and genders to challenge people toi engage in the difficult task of forming interracial bonds. Excerpted from “Urban Art” by Olivia Gude and Jeff Huebner.
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55th Street and Lake Park, 1972
This classic underpass mural was painted as an indictment of the industrial pollution of the Great Lakes, especially the consequence of the invasion of alewives into the freshwater lakes, an event here witnesses by a procession of local residents. Humans’ subjugation of nature is thematically linked to scenes of shackled and liberated black people. The mural closes as mothers of all races nestle their infants and fish swim freely. Excerpted from “Urban Art” by Olivia Gude and Jeff Huebner.
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William Walker, 1973
617 W. Evergreen Ave.
Walker spent three years covering the exterior and interior of the San Marcello Mission Church with murals about the unity--and disunity--of the human race. Located at the edge of the Cabrini-Green public housing complex, the church facade features one of Walker’s recurring motifs: four heads, representing different races, interlocked in a symbol of brotherhood and goodwill. Around the window is a list of civil rights-related martyrs and events, including Dr. King, Medgar Evers, the My Lai Massacre, and the shootings at Kent State. The future of Chicago’s “little Sistine Chapel,” now the Strangers Home Missionary Baptist Church, is uncertain. Efforts are being made to save the church and the mural.
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John Pitman Weber, 1976
2100 W. Division St.
Painted with the neighborhood residents, TILT (as it‘s popularly known) depicts a monumental racially mixed group of people protectively embracing their homes against a background of decorative patterns similar to old-fashioned wallpaper. While smaller figures “build” their community through work and play, others fend off drugs, vandalism, gangs, absentee landlords, real estate speculators, unemployment and freeways – all of which threaten the quality of life. These dark tilted images on the north half are meant to be seen only by the local audience; eastbound traffic on Fullerton sees only the positive harmonious images.
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56th Street and Lake Park, 1992
For this oral history mural on the Metra underpass in Hyde Park, Gude asked various passersby, “Where are you coming from? Where are you going?” The images and words are drawn from photos of the people and their taped responses, which ranged from the mundane to the political to the metaphysical.
The variety of quotations suggests that people within a given geographic area may not necessarily hear each other’s voices--though the very act of pointing out these overlapping stories suggests the possibility of initiating conversation and creating a “community of discourse.”
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Youth-based Public Art
Art Education Through Collaborative Public Art
Chicago Public Art Group’s approach to art education encourages discussion, collective decision-making, and collaboration. In this model, each individual is responsible for the success of the final project. A community public art project in a school setting is a means to communicate ideas, research images, test accuracy of understanding, develop and apply skills, work together as a team, and share in the final accomplishment. Projects may be integrated into the other subjects in the curriculum or may stand alone as an exploration of architecture, space, and ideas.
Artistic Development Through Mentoring and Leadership Training
Chicago Public Art Group provides training that artists don’t get in school—how to work in their communities on large-scale public projects. CPAG artists understand how to explore and express community ideas, how to design on a large scale, how to manage large quantities of materials, how to increase the skills and commitments of volunteers, how to complete a project on schedule, and how to create an artwork that enjoys broad popular support.
Beacon of Light, a mural combining acrylic paint and spray paint by Rahmaan Barnes, assisted by Max Sansing with youth team. 2006.