Splayed on Chicago’s bridges, in its stairwells, and dancing across brick walls underneath its freeways are painted murals that tell the story of the city itself. From the pain and struggle of the urban experience, to the faith and hope that abound in its surroundings, Chicago street art is a testament to the spirit of its people and the creative dynamism they embody.
With more major public art murals than you can see in a day, use this guide to find the best graffiti art in Chicago.
Collin van der Sluijs is a Dutch artist who works completely without sketches or notes. He created this vaulting mural at 1006 S. Michigan Ave. depicting two endangered Illinois birds perched on a web of electric blue and purple flowers.
Muralis Hector Duarte is an award-winning public artist who’s contributed to over 50 murals in the city. ‘Gulliver in Wonderland’ is a depiction of Mexican immigration struggles that covers the outside of Duarte’s own two-story home. The mural seamlessly wraps from the side of the house to the front and manages to appear fluid from any angle.
This powerful piece of street art in the Pilsen neighborhood on 16th and Halsted evokes the power and pain of Jesus’ crucifiction as an homage to the shared Catholic faith between the neighborhood’s Mexican and Polish residents.
Jim Zimmerman is a Chicago artist who created this three-panel mural on an apartment building on 19th and Ashland. It combines politics, religion and community through images of local workers, Cesar Chavez, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
When you first look at Hebru Brantley’s mural of four “flyboys” in mid sprint on a brick wall near North Damen Ave. and Concord Place in Bucktown, you’ll instantly feel its iconic nature. The colors jump off the wall and infuses every viewer with the spirit of unbounded, youthful adventure.
Muralist Gamaliel Ramirez’s ‘Sea of Flags’ depicts a raucous parade during the Puerto Rican cultural festival known as Fiesta Boricua. The piece is spectacular not only for the palpable exuberance and pride of the marchers, but by the sheer number of people revelling beneath a gigantic Puerto Rican flag in the sky.
Artists William Walker, Mitchell Caton, and Santi Isrwouthakul’s 1975 mural for the Chicago Public Art Group is meant to depict the social ills and grievances of those times. It is an evocative, and busily surrealist rendering of the corrupting nature of power that you’ll want to take in for a long while.
This is a community-based initiative, started in 2007, to paint a full mile of murals along the CTA Red Line track from Touhy Avenue to Pratt Boulevard. The topics covered are too numerous to list, but the permanent display will make for a lovely, art-filled walk and guarantee a great day in Chicago. And as a Rogers Parker myself, I am a bit biased in its favor.
No matter which one of these murals you see, you’ll certainly enjoy yourself! Or make a day of it and see them all.
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