Save the "All of Mankind" Mural
The All of Mankind mural, painted in 1972 by famed muralist William Walker and one of the last three Walker murals still existing in Chicago, may soon be lost forever.
The Strangers Home Missionary Baptist Church, 617 W. Evergreen Ave., currently is for sale and likely will be demolished to make way for on-going redevelopment of the former Cabrini-Green CHA housing site. With it will go All of Mankind, Unity of the Human Race, as well as the last chance to preserve, in one small structure, a mighty symbol of the 100-year span of history, culture, and irreplaceable art within the city’s near north neighborhood.
“This is a historic building and a historic mural that must not be destroyed,” said Jon Pounds, Executive Director of the Chicago Public Art Group and longtime public art activist. “The church itself represents the successive century-long service of three religious denominations as the community evolved from mainly Italian-American to African-American families. And Bill Walker’s mural, All of Mankind, stands as a tribute to the tumultuous times in which it was painted and continues to provide a particularly relevant message for all of us today. This is a powerful piece of Chicago public art deserving of preservation.”
The All of Mankind Coalition now has been established to advocate for and facilitate professional restoration of the mural and re-adaptation of the building as a renewed and historical asset for the community as well as for all Chicagoans. Coalition members include architects, artists, and writers; Chicago real estate and business leaders and heads of city and state-wide preservation groups; as well as government and community activists from throughout the city.
Coalition member Lee Bey, writer, architecture critic, and urbanist, said: "What better place than a regentrifying neighborhood to restore a mural that embraces cooperation, equality, and the value of all humanity?”
Walter Burnett, Jr., Alderman, 27th Ward, has voiced his full support of the Coalition’s goals. “While it is satisfying to see the city and neighborhood transformed, I believe it is also important to retain a memory of the history that brought us to this place,” said Alderman Burnett. “This Stranger’s Home Church has served the community in the past, and the building can still provide important service to future residents. The mural, All of Mankind, inspired myself and others to understand our common humanity – a task not yet complete in the world.”
All of Mankind is part of a Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation funded survey of Chicago community murals. The 2007 survey by Chicago Public Art Group examined the historic importance of the mural, the condition of the mural and wall, and development in the surrounding community. In 2008, the survey will be reviewed to create a list of important early murals deserving of restoration. It is anticipated that All of Mankind will be short-listed for restoration.
William Walker, the artist who conceived of Chicago’s first community mural, The Wall of Respect, painted All of Mankind, Unity of the Human Race, in 1972. The mural depicts the interrelated cultures of the world and calls on all people to honor each other’s differences while decrying the worldwide loss of leaders to assassination and the suffering caused by atrocities and violence. The church façade features one of Walker’s recurring motifs: the faces of people of different races interlocked in a symbol of brotherhood.
The church was built in 1901 by the American Protestant Episcopal church, then acquired and rededicated as the San Marcello Mission in 1927 by the Catholic Archdiocese, to serve the growing population of Italians. To its parishioners, it became known fondly as “Little Sistine Chapel,” and the surrounding neighborhood dubbed “Little Sicily.” The mission was closed in 1974.
For 35 years, Chicago Public Art Group has produced murals, mosaics, sculptures, and park designs with communities throughout the Chicago area. CPAG projects blend artistry and community engagement to create beautiful, meaningful interventions into the urban landscape.
For more information about the All of Mankind mural or to join the growing effort to preserve this singular piece of Chicago public art, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
All of Mankind, Unity of the Human Race
All of Mankind, Unity of the Human Race mural. Five months in the making; completed fall, 1972. 60 ft. x 50 ft.; oil-based paint on cinderblock and glazed ceramic brick. Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and donations from community residents, who assisted on-site during the painting. Original cost, including scaffolding, wall repairs, paints, materials, and labor: $5,500.
Muralist William Walker (b. 1927). The senior living African-American muralist in the Midwest. Walker is credited with proposing the creation of the first community mural, The Wall of Respect, (43rd and Langley, 1967). The Wall of Respect inspired the community mural movement’s beginning in Bronzeville. The idea quickly spread to the neighborhoods of Pilsen, Hyde Park, Uptown, and Humboldt Park, and to cities throughout the country as an urban public art movement. Walker co-founded the Community Mural Project, now Chicago Public Art Group, in 1971 with John Pitman Weber
617 W. Evergreen Ave. (originally Rees St.) Construction permit granted June 1901. Built by the American Protestant Episcopal Church. According to the History of Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago (Vol. II, 1980), the church was subsequently run by an Italian Protestant minister, then converted in 1927 as a Catholic mission church, San Marcello, for St. Philip Benizi parish (Oak and Cambridge), to serve the expanding Italian-speaking population. The first CHA Cabrini-Green buildings, the row houses, were completed in 1962. By the time the public housing development was completed 20 years later—at its height home to approximately 15,000 residents--the neighborhood make-up was mainly African-American. St. Philip Benizi was demolished in 1965. San Marcello was closed in 1974 and subsequently purchased by the Strangers Home Missionary Baptist Church, which currently is offering the building for sale.
Viewpoints - Past and Present
“All of Mankind [mural] is certainly Mr. Walker’s finest work of art. He worked on the wall every day for five months with constant community participation. The wall belongs to the community. They protect and celebrate his art. He expresses their hopes and loves.” Fr. Dennis Kendrick, San Marcello Mission, 1972
“William Walker’s work holds up a mirror to the profoundly positive gains realized by a momentous national movement for civil and human rights, so magnificently driven during the sixties and seventies… What Langston Hughes has been to African American letters, William (Bill) Walker is to African-American images.” Victor Sorrell, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1991
“These murals have inspired people in the city for a long time, but as neighborhoods change, those messages are not always understood . . . What’s sad is that the poor condition of these murals makes it difficult for people to even try to understand them.”
William Walker, Chicago Tribune, October 15, 2005
More Articles about the "All of Mankind" mural
Click the links below to view PDF documents:
- Chicao Journal, February 21 2008
- Chicago Tribune, January 30 2008
- The Columbia College Chronicle
- The Daily Northwestern