WEST LOOP — The artist responsible for the West Loop’s famous Juice WRLD mural said he wants to repaint it after it was mysteriously destroyed last week.
But the head of a local neighborhood group said it’s not welcome.
Someone painted over several murals, included one of the late Frankie Knuckles and another of Juice WRLD, last week on a viaduct at 810 W. Kinzie St. Various local agencies have said it wasn’t them — but no one has taken responsibility for the controversial destruction.
Now, a debate is already brewing over if the murals should return.
Bringing Back The Murals?
Supporters of the Juice WRLD mural created an online petition to revive the art. It had more than 100 signatures as of Friday morning.
Artist Corey Pane, who was commissioned to paint the Juice WRLD mural in 2020, has said he’d like to return to Chicago to redo the piece.
But all of the attention and foot traffic was a nuisance to neighbors, a local group leader said.
John Bosca, president of Neighbors of River West, said residents were fed up with the groups that gathered at night near the murals.
People would have parties in the underpass near the viaduct, and neighbors complained about them revving their car engines and causing chaos, Bosca said.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) previously said neighbors have complained about groups that gathered into the early hours of the morning, leaving garbage and disturbing the peace.
An anonymous neighbor told CBS2 “it was madness there” and gave the station video from 2020 showing police ushering groups of people out and away from the underpass.
“The mural has created a lot of problems and is a nuisance. … That artwork goes up and people feel like they have the right to go in there … and at the expense of the residents,” Bosca said.
Bosca said Levar Hoard — founder of the B_Line project, a series of murals along Hubbard Street in the West Loop — created turmoil at the site without attempting to rein in the people gathering. But Hoard said the gatherings happened there nearly three years ago and were not hosted or organized by him.
“They will see in the coming weeks that not having art there does not stop people from gathering back there and doing what they do,” Hoard said.
Neighbors of River West had nothing to do with the murals’ removal — but the group would not support the art returning, Bosca said.
“It shouldn’t happen. … He can move that artwork someplace else where it’s much more conducive,” Bosca said.
Representatives of the West Loop Community Organization and the West Central Association, other nearby community groups, said they also had nothing to do with removing the murals.
Julie Darling, a West Loop Community Organization board member, said it’s not OK to deface public art — but neighbors should also not have their peace disturbed.
Darling would like to see the murals return, but she said it should require input from the community.
Armando Chacon, president of the West Central Association, said he’s a big fan of public art but thinks the artist should adhere to the wishes of the property owners and residents.
“There would have to be more discussions and community engagement in order to determine what, if anything, could be done,” Chacon said.
Finding The Culprit
Who painted over the murals remains a mystery. The Illinois Department of Transportation, Metra, Union Pacific Railroad and Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation department have denied being involved.
But at least one person said they witnessed it.
Ally Kipp said she parked next to the viaduct’s underpass about 4:45 a.m. April 19 and, when she got out of her car, she noticed a crew painting the walls where the murals were.
“They had this whole light setup. … A group of like 10 guys, and they were wearing fluorescent vests,” Kipp said.
Kipp said she assumed they were city workers doing maintenance work. After learning about the murals getting painted over, she was shocked to realize what she had actually seen.
“When I found out they destroyed the artwork, I was like, ‘Why didn’t I take a video?'” Kipp said.
The murals along Hubbard, known as the B_Line, have existed since the ’70s, when the project was known as the Hubbard Street Murals.
A 1971 agreement was created with artists and Union Pacific Railroad to allow murals to be painted along the viaduct, according to the Reader. Over the years, local artists have taken over the project to maintain the murals. In 2017, with no one carrying the torch, Hoard took over.
The 1971 agreement remains in place, protecting murals on Hubbard, Hoard said.
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