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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

After Taggers Vandalize Important Pilsen Murals, Neighborhood Groups Ask Culprits To ‘Respect Community Art’

Two 18th Street murals were tagged again, and area nonprofits are now trying to fix them up. “We are fans of street and graffiti artists, but there are unwritten rules and guidelines that you follow and respect."

The Declaration of Immigration mural on the alley near 1413 W. 18th Street was among two murals recently defaced with graffiti in Pilsen.
Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
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PILSEN — Local artists are restoring two murals defaced along 18th Street in Pilsen, including one that was just finished last month.

Letters and tags were spray painted across parts of the Declaration of Immigration and Amor y Communidad murals near 18th and Blue Island.

Artists from the Pilsen Arts and Community House nonprofit and Yollocalli Arts Reach, who helped create the murals, found out about the damage Monday and are working to fix the community art pieces.

“We are fans of street and graffiti artists, but there are unwritten rules and guidelines that you follow and respect … community art,” said Teresa Magaña, executive director of Pilsen Arts and Community House.

Credit: Provided
The Declaration of Immigration and Amor y Communidad near 18th and Blue Island Avenue were defaced with graffiti.

Painted in 2009, the Declaration of Immigration was created by Salvador Jimenez and 10 young artists from Yollocalli Arts Reach, a National Museum of Mexican Art youth initiative, for an exhibit at the museum.

It depicts barbed wire, Latin American flags and the statement: “We are a nation of immigrants. No inhumane treatment, deportation, family separation, detention. No wall. No human is illegal. National security is used to foster inter ethnic tension.”

Yollocalli Director Vanessa Sanchez said they will hire two young artists in July to fix the Declaration of Immigration, as well as more of the group’s murals around the city that have been defaced or need retouching.

“It happens a lot,” Sanchez said of the graffiti. “I guess I’m kind of used to it.”

Sanchez said if she recognizes the name of the graffiti tags, she likes to extend opportunities to young street and graffiti artists to come work with Yollocalli and get paid.

Another defaced mural, Amor y Communidad, was created late last month by artist 2MIL with Pilsen Art and Community House, La Casa Del Pueblo, Sleep Walk Chocolateria and community members.

The mural depicts dancing children with bull masks, red vines with flowers and a giant heart at 1421 W. 18th St.

Pilsen Arts and Community House posted photos of the defaced murals on social media in hopes folks in the graffiti art scene would tell younger artists not to tag community art pieces, Magaña said.

It takes a lot of time, money and community effort to produce expansive public artwork like the 18th Street murals, Magaña said. With an uptick in this kind of tagging, community artists must also factor in future costs to restore damage, including buying extra paint or costly anti-graffiti coating, she said.

They planned to put an anti-graffiti coating on Amor y Communidad, but they didn’t expect it to be tagged only weeks after being completed and didn’t immediately have money for the materials.

Alongside efforts to fix the 18th Street murals, the 25th Ward Arts and Culture Committee is restoring public art throughout Pilsen that has been tagged or needs touchups.

Ultimately, Magaña wants artists to “respect community art.” 

“The community definitely appreciates the existing and new artwork being put up, respecting it is really key. [The mural and public art] is not just for one person; it’s for everyone,” Magaña said. “We are sharing and co-existing in the same visual space.”

People can donate for the 25th Ward Arts and Culture Committee to restore Pilsen murals here.

Credit: Provided
Amor y Communidad was created by artist 2 MIL in partnership with Pilsen Art and Community House, La Casa Del Pueblo, Sleep Walk Chocolateria and community members.

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