Greetings, art-loving Chicago traveler.
So you’re probably planning on seeing some museums while you’re in town. Good for you. But museums are so… cultured. So… rigid. So… enclosed.
Try this on for size, Chicago traveler: how about foregoing a museum or two and taking-in this city’s vibrant mural scene instead? The entrance fee is $0, the artists are talented, you’ll get a little exercise (that deep-dish pizza you scarfed-down at lunch is not going to walk-off itself), a little fresh air won’t kill you and you can TOUCH THE STUFF! Take all the pictures you want. With flash!
You still with me, Chicago traveler? So my mural walk takes place in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. I’m sure many amazing murals exist outside it, and I’m bound to miss many great pieces within it, but this is a solid start.
Pilsen is a neighborhood southwest of downtown Chicago that is home to a large hispanic population — and you’ll witness that reflected in the art displayed on this series of posts. The area was considered dangerous in the ’90′s , but it’s gentrifying quickly. Pilsen is a proud community, which is evident by the large-scale works of art is produces.
I would feel comfortable wandering it as a solo, female Chicago traveler during the day but might not venture here at night. That’s just cautious me.
So I will assume that you, like most Chicago travelers, do not have a car at your disposal, which is good, because parking at a downtown hotel will cost you $50 a night. Take the CTA pink line train from The Loop to 18th street and exit. If you just walk east from here you’ll encounter a boatload of galleries and studios on either side of the street, all the way to Halsted.
For this walk, head west on 18th street until you reach the Orozco Community Academy on your right, just after Damen. If you’re into tiles you’ll appreciate the mural spanning the upper edge of the building.
Now head south on Damen, take a left onto 19th Street and a quick right onto Wolcott, where you’ll run into this stunner:
It’s the depiction of Gulliver’s Travels by local artist Hector Duarte, and it symbolizes the plight of the migrant.
The mural is pretty freaking fantastic. The scale, the detail, the appreciation for angle and the viewers’ perspective. Duarte approaches his art mathematically.
If you continue south you’ll find the artist’s gallery at the intersection with 21st Street. And if you’re lucky he might just let you in.
I’m enamored with heart art so the workshop was candy to me. Duarte has painted multiple depictions of the organ and the significance of his work involves the hardships endured by immigrants. I can relate to that: when I moved from Iowa to Minnesota in 9th grade the other kids dubbed me “Corn Queen”.
That stung. I can’t fully enjoy niblets to this day. No amount of butter and salt seals those old wounds.
19th Street is a wealth of murals:
You, Chicago traveler, have a couple choices at this point: hang a right at 21st Street if you’d like to visit more galleries/studios OR check-out even more of the best Chicago street art: it’s only a 3-minute drive away.