For over 45 years our artists have worked with and for Chicago communities to create collaborative, high-quality public art.
History of the Packinghouse Worker, 1974, restored 1998
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.
Cry the Beloved Country-South Africa Exposed, 1985
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.
Labor of Love, 1987
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.
I Welcome Myself to a New Place, 1988
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.
Benu: The Rebirth of South Shore, 1990, 1995 restored
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.
Honor Boricua, 1992
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.
Where We Come From ... Where We’re Going, 1992
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.
Aren’t I a Womyn?, 1993
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.
Arts for All, 1993
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.
How to Build a Brighter Future, 1993
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.”
Still Deferred; Still Dreaming, 1993
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.
Feed Your Child the Truth, 1994
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.
Shiva 2021, 1994
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.
Fishing at Hogarth's Head Bay, 1995
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.
The Great Migration, 1995
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.
Intercambio Monumental, 1995
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.
Meta 4 Icicle Journey, 1995
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.
Tribute to the Pullman Porters, 1995
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.
Changing Home, 1996
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.
New Life, New Love, 1996
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.
Fellows & Others, 1997
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?
I've Got a Feeling About the Whirl'd, 1997
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.
Matriarchy for a New Millennium, 1997
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.
The Only Thing Keeping Me Down Is…Gravity, 1997
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.
Su Casa, 1997
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.
Tell Me What You See, 1997
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.
Urban World at the Crossroads, 1997
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.
Anti-Police Brutality, 1998
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.
Soaring Toward Excellence, 1999
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.
Love Mural, 2001
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.
What We See—Lo Que Vemos, 2001
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.