Where are you coming from?  Where are you going?

Home after a hard day’s work…

or on a job hunt, trying to get married…?

In 1992, Olivia Gude asked people passing by the Metra underpass at 56th and Lake Park Ave these questions.  She incorporated their answers into Where We Come From…Where We’re Going.

Gude restored the mural in 2009, preserving this slice of Hyde Park oral history.

Where are YOU going?


Dr. Seuss meets the Mission

I was blown away by this piece at Lexington and 18th in San Francisco’s Mission.

Andrew Schoultz and Aaron Noble created Generator in 2002-2003.  It depicts an incredibly detailed, interconnected scene of buildings and birds and machines.

It seems more like a drawing than a mural, actually.  I love the Dr. Seuss-ian style with its curving, elaborate, lopsided buildings and the motion and humor of the birds and machines.

It also includes little signs with references to the neighborhood.

I read an article interpreting Generator as a statement about gentrification in the Mission.  That may be true.  Or not.  I like not knowing.


I get a kick out of things that are really big — like those giant Hershey’s kisses or the 6-foot toothbrush that Whoopie Goldberg wielded in Jumpin’ Jack Flash.   I think that’s one reason I like murals — their scale.  But there are big murals, and then there are BIG murals.  Check these out from my recent trips to San Francisco.

One Tree was painted by Rigo in 1996  at 10th and Bryant next to a freeway ramp in the South of Market area of San Francisco.  The San Francisco Bay Guardian named it the Best Public Art Project of the Year that year.

Rigo also painted Truth, a mural dedicated to Robert King Wilkerson.  Wilkerson was a Black Panther who was exonerated in 2001 after being convicted of murder and held in solitary confinement for 29 years.  Truth was painted at 7th and Market in the Civic Center area in 2002.

Not far away, at Golden Gate and Jones in the Tenderloin, I came across these oversized faces…

and this guy out for a stroll.

I don’t know who painted these pieces, but I love the whimsical pop art/comic book styles.

My favorite extra-large mural is another from Rigo — Birds/Cars (1997)  at 16th and Bryant in the Mission.  Very fun.

New world

I’m guessing that many of you Chicagoans have seen this mural on the Holy Covenant United Methodist Church on Diversey and Wilton in Lincoln Park.  In fact, you can see it from the L platform nearby.

For a New World/Para un Nuevo Mundo was painted by John Pitman Weber and Oscar Martínez in 1973 and restored by Weber and Bernard Williams in 1996.  The mural is divided into 3 sections that correspond to the church’s worship service.

Pain, death and suffering is depicted at the far left.  This is Confession.

The middle section depicts The Word with images of love, light, and racial harmony.

Finally, the right panel depicts daily labor and working for justice as the Offering.

I love the substantial forms and the deep, bold colors in this mural.  It really leaps off the wall…all the way to the L, actually.


Last fall, I happened upon a new mural created by Yollocalli Arts Reach.  I posted about it and received an email from the staff — with a map to more of their work!

The first piece I’ve checked out is Libertad in Barrett Park at Cermak and Damen in Pilsen.  The mural covers the retaining wall that runs along the playground.  It features a variety of famous faces including Frida Kahlo, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

As with the earlier mural I’d seen, Jesus “Chucho” Rodriguez led youth in creating this work.  It was part of a mural making class that also included an exploration of the history and tradition of mural making.

I love the mix of people that they youth chose to include.

I recognize Ghandi, Malcolm X and Emiliano Zapata.  Can anyone help me with the other guy?

San Fran Snapshot

The Mission District in San Francisco explodes with murals.  It is a wild mix of traditional Chicano imagery, contemporary spraycan styles and pieces painted by kids and other community members.   And the scale is small — garages, fences, low buildings.  Balmy Alley is the go-to  mural destination, but you can find murals on all kinds of streets and alleys in the Mission and beyond.  Here’s a snapshot — enjoy!

The McDonald’s (yes, McDonald’s!) at 24th and Mission:

Lilac alley:

24th and Alabama:

Vamos Gigantes (Let’s Go, Giants) at 19th and San Carlos:

24th and Treat:

And 24th and Harrison:

More to come!

Regal, old and new

Last year I went down to Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood with my friend V to check out several murals by Mitchell Caton.  My favorite was  Bright Moments, Memories of the Future, a mural painted at 79th and Stony Island by Caton and Calvin Jones.

The mural is on the west wall of a Moorish Revival building that has a long and somewhat complicated story.  The building opened as the Avalon Theater in 1927 and served the neighborhood until the late 1970s when it closed and then became a church.  It reopened as the New Regal Theater in 1987, taking its name from the demolished Regal Theater that had stood at 47th and King Drive in Bronzeville.

The old Regal Theater was the center of entertainment in African American Chicago from the 1920s until it was razed in 1973.  Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, and Duke Ellington performed regularly at the Regal, and Chicagoan Nat King Cole got his start there.

Caton and Jones painted the mural the year that the New Regal Theater opened, and it’s a who’s who of the legendary artists who performed at the old Regal in its heyday.  V proved herself that day as a mural hunting assistant extraordinaire as well as an expert on all things arts.  She picked out Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Moms Mabley and Nat King Cole…

…Stevie Wonder and Josephine Baker among many others.  I love how the artists leap off the mural, vibrant and energetic and literally larger than life.

And I love these little couples cutting a rug at the bottom of the mural.

The New Regal was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1992 but closed again in 2003.  There’s talk of re-opening the theater as a culture venue, but for now it’s vacant.