After “Mistaking” Murals for Graffiti, Chicago Considers Public Art Registry

mural

The quotation marks above are mine; the original title is “After Mistaking Murals for Graffiti, City Considers Public Art Registry.” Many thanks to Peter Jordens for sharing with us several links related to the “erroneous” erasure of “Es tiempo de recordar,” a mural celebrating Puerto Rican culture at Pulaski Road and Bloomingdale Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Evan García (WTTW, Chicago) writes:

Public art or graffiti? Unfortunately, that can be a hard call for the city to make: A mural commissioned by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, outside the Paulina Brown Line CTA station, was removed by a Chicago Streets and Sanitation crew two weeks after it was painted. Similarly, “Es Tiempo de Recordar,” a 26-year-old Northwest Side mural celebrating Puerto Rican and other Caribbean art, was erroneously whitewashed by city workers months ago.

Here are excerpts from “City Accidentally Destroys Beloved Mural That Celebrated Puerto Rican Culture,” an article by Mina Bloom (Medium):

The colorful mural, “Es Tiempo de Recordar,” was painted 26 years ago by a trio of prominent artists — Sandra Antongiorgi, Marcus Akinlana and Rolf Mueller— in partnership with a group of students. It depicted the art, music and culture of the Puerto Rican community, according to Antongiorgi, who also restored the mural in 2010. “We asked what [the students] wanted to see, how they wanted to be represented,” she said of the mural.

Last week, city crews whitewashed the mural during a graffiti removal job without notifying the artists, local aldermen or the Chicago Public Art Group, an organization that routinely works with the city on public art projects. “It’s just so blatantly disrespectful,” Antongiorgi said. “[The mural] was a deep representation of the art, music and history of the Puerto Rican people. It really concerns me because it was of cultural significance in the community.”

Ald. Roberto Maldonado, whose 26th Ward includes part of the mural, echoed Antongiorgi’s sentiment in a Facebook post. “At a minimum, they should have approached me and the alderman of the 35th ward to discuss the mural like they do for other things,” Maldonado wrote. “I would have invested to restore the mural, there are ways to paint over graffiti as we are doing with other murals in our community.”

Marjani Williams, a spokeswoman for the city’s department of streets and sanitation, said the mural was removed “in error.” She said the city recognizes the importance of public art and remains committed to working with communities to ensure murals are protected during “neighborhood improvement work.” But Antongiorgi said it’s not enough for the city to apologize. The city needs to create a policy that prevents this from happening again, she said. “There should be a process when the city or anyone decides to take these down, the community should be involved, the alderman should be involved, the artist should be called,” she said.

The erasure of “Es Tiempo de Recordar” is the latest blow for Chicago’s public art community. Last year, an iconic mural covering the former Casa Aztlan community center in Pilsen was destroyed to make way for a development. In 2015, the famous “All of Mankind” mural covering Northside Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, the last remnant of Cabrini-Green’s history, was whitewashed. Both happened in changing neighborhoods; with “Es Tiempo de Recordar,” it’s no different, Antongiorgi said.

“[The Hermosa mural] is a couple blocks from The 606. The neighborhood is changing, going through gentrification. I can’t help but tie the two together,” she said.

For more information, see https://news.wttw.com/2018/09/18/after-mistaking-murals-graffiti-city-considers-public-art-registry

For background information on “Es Tiempo de Recordar” and its artists:

Sandra Antongiorgi, http://www.santongiorgi.com
Marcus Akinlana, http://www.akinlana.com

After city accidentally whitewashes landmark mural, artists and activists demand change
Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader, June 19, 2018
https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/mural-whitewashing-es-tiempo-de-recordar-sandra-antongiorgi-marcus-akinlana

City Accidentally Destroys Beloved Mural That Celebrated Puerto Rican Culture
Mina Bloom, Medium, May 29, 2018
https://medium.com/block-club-chicago/city-accidentally-destroys-beloved-mural-that-celebrated-puerto-rican-culture-42ac22780f7f

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