PILSEN — Parts of the walls adorned with murals at the 18th Street “L” stop in Pilsen have been painted over, causing outrage on social media and angering the local alderman.
On Thursday night, photos circulating on Facebook showed parts of the murals along the entrance to the CTA station had been covered with white paint.
But CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the social media post didn’t accurately portray the status of the mural at the Pink Line Station. CTA crews previously painted over graffiti that defaced portions of the mural but ended that practice more than a year ago, Steele said.
In addition to parts of the murals being cut out of the wall, the previously white-painted areas have been frequently targeted with graffiti, Steele said. While CTA paints over the graffiti of the white-painted walls, the agency no longer paints over other existing parts of the murals, he said.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) earlier said he had “zero tolerance for the white-washing of our community.”
“The destruction of public art is utterly reprehensible and disrespectful to the artists, the cultures that make-up Pilsen, and all of us who live here,” Sigcho-Lopez said.
The murals were painted in 1998 by Francisco Mendoza, Gallery 37 students and the Mexican Museum of National Art as part of city’s Adopt-A-Station program, according to the CTA website.
The murals depicted cultural icons in Mexican history and told stories about the neighborhood.
Carlos Rubio, 40, who was part of the original Gallery 37 students, remembers working alongside Mendoza and a cohort of 15 students to create the murals in the late 90s. Rubio said he has noticed the city had been painting over sections of the mural that had been graffitied over, rather than tapping someone to retouch the original mural.
“I know how the city works. If this is gang-related or a random tagger, they cover it….I’m not justifying them or blaming them but they are just doing their job. They aren’t muralists or artists,” he said.
Rubio said he would love to reunite with the original mural group to retouch, repair or create a mural paying honor to Mendoza’s legacy.
Mendoza, an art teacher at Jose Orozco Clemente Academy, died of cancer in 2012, according to his website.
“I think the community would love. His former students would love it. He changed a lot of lives,” Rubio said.
Steele said the CTA has been in the conversation with a former Mendoza protoge to restore the mural.
Carlos Tortolero, president and founder of the National Museum of Mexican Art, said the white washing of the mural was “very unfortunate.”
“The National Museum of Mexican Art does not support any white washing of murals,” he said in an email statement.. “The Museum, throughout its history has been very supportive of muralists, including Francisco Mendoza whose murals are found at the station.”
Neighbors and admirers expressed frustration about the murals being painted over.
“This is a f—ing outrage,” another person commented on Facebook. “One of the most beautiful stops in Chicago is being destroyed and it’s complete bullsh—. There’s gotta be something we can do.”
“Hoping with others that this is for new murals but still, I loved the ones that were there. This hurts. Wish CTA would have given some type of notice at least,” another wrote.
On Twitter, another person said it was sad to see the reports of the murals being painted over at the station. “I hope new murals will be painted —it’s not right to erase Pilsen’s Hispanic heritage.”
Another lamented “gentrification had won.”
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