When I first moved to Logan Square 13 years ago, I learned two things: One, be nice to your local tamale vendor and, two, always take a photo of your favorite mural or art installation—because one day one or the other it might disappear.
Neighborhoods like Logan Square have a vibrant history, home to many artists and musicians. But in the face of gentrification and the real estate gold rush, there is so much great art out there that is gone in a flash, never to be seen again.
Logan Square Preservation protects the classic, Norwegian-inspired architecture and keeps our elegant skyline from being obliterated by high-rises. Now there may be a city-wide solution to protecting the art on the street level.
Photos: Erik Island
Recently, the Chicago Cultural Affairs Department created the Mural Registry. Murals that are accepted into the registry are assigned a unique Mural Registration ID with an official City of Chicago emblem. The registry is a permanent complement to the “Year of Public Art” in 2017.
“Not only will the new registry help protect these critical cultural assets, it will also create a portal for the public to access and explore where murals are located in every corner of the city,” Mark Kelly, Commissioner of the Department for Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) told WTTW.
Over the past three or four decades, street art and graffiti have grown past their negative connotations: from presidential campaign posters to album covers to t-shirts, street art has gone from counterculture to mainstream couture. Gabriel “Flash” Carrasquillo Jr. of FLASH ABC, is the curator of Project Logan. Project Logan is a sanctioned wall between the Logan Square and California Blue Line stop, allowing local Grafitti artists a place in the neighborhood to show their skills. And thanks to social media, more artists can now preserve and promote their work online. Mural artists like Ali_Six and Darius Dennis have their work on the street, in stores and public spaces as far as Puerto Rico.
“I don’t like that murals will have to have a city emblem on them to mark them as ‘sanctioned,” artist Penny Pinch mused. “But I do appreciate that something is being done to make sure that art continues to thrive in the city.”
After several city cleaning crews have inadvertently destroyed many classic murals around town, the registry is a step forward in protecting public artwork, though the age-old discussion of “art vs. graffiti” becomes a conversation that eventually boils down to classism vs. personal taste. Some artists are open to the idea of registration, though guardedly.
“As long as the registry remains optional, free, and unbiased—for now it seems to be all of those—I can’t find a reason to complain,” said prolific local artist Nick “Sick” Fisher. “I just hope that it stays true to its goals of protection and promotion of the arts, not a bureaucratic distinction of what is art and what is not.”
Photos: Erik Island
So far there are no murals in Logan Square on the Registry. But many artists that have contributed to the neighborhood, such as the “I Am Logan Square” Mural by Sam Kirk and Sandra Antongiorgi, have other works that are registered. In mid-July, several local artists held a panel discussion called “Gentrification Without Displacement”, moderated by members of Heaven Gallery, the Corner Project, and the Chicago Artists Coalition.
There are many discussions happening throughout the neighborhood: long-time residents are being priced out and redevelopments are tearing away at buildings where the murals are painted, so many people are anxious about Logan Square’s future. It’s early days and the number of citywide murals is few, but a step in any direction, however slow and clunky, is better than no action at all.
The public has a right to art. The public is being ignored by most contemporary artists… Art is for everybody.”Keith Haring, Keith Haring Journals
Though some of these murals are new, historic and some are even gone, you can still check out their artwork:
- Quincy Jones mural by Cobre, Welcome to Chicago mural by Victor Ving & Lisa Beggs (photo by Sarah Sansom
- Nair Jordan, Hanksy
- You Are Beautiful window display, You Are Beautiful
- Dali Mural, Werm312, Kustom Art Studios
- Logan Square Chicago, Frank Quintero, Photo by Liz Pompe
- Temple of the Dog & Meow Lounge storefront, Nick Fisher
- Stickers by Penny Pinch
- Milwaukee Ave Mural, Ali_Six
- “I Am Logan Square” Mural by Sam Kirk and Sandra Antongiorgi
Featured photo: Sarah Sansom