Well-known figure in Pilsen arts community ‘innocent victim’ in fatal bar stabbing

SHARE Well-known figure in Pilsen arts community ‘innocent victim’ in fatal bar stabbing
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Rudy Avina | (supplied photo)

Rodolfo “Rudy” Avina was a mainstay in the artsy Pilsen neighborhood.

A framer by trade, the 43-year-old’s craftsmanship can be found throughout the National Museum of Mexican Art in the Near West Side neighborhood.

Avina, a father of three who married into the family that owns the famed Nuevo Leon restaurant on 18th Street, was killed early Saturday at a neighborhood bar where he was a regular.

He was sitting at the bar at Simone’s, a popular spot in the 900 block of West 18th Street, when someone walked up behind him and slit his throat, a relative said authorities told him.

Avina, who lived blocks way, was dead at the scene.

Someone was taken into custody after the stabbing, and criminal charges are expected to be filed, according to Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Rottner, who said Saturday night the attack “was unprovoked” and that Avina was “an innocent victim.”

The violent death shocked the tight-knit community of Pilsen, where even the local mailman knew what had happened to a beloved community member.

“Rudy was known because he had this great personality and a very kind and gentle soul,” said longtime friend Diana Solis, 59. “Rudy is going to leave a huge void in this community.”

“He was not somebody who wanted to get in trouble,” said longtime friend Cesario Moreno, the chief curator at the Mexican art museum. “He was a peace-loving father.”

Avina owned a framing business, Creativo Framing, in River North and worked with artists all around the city, Moreno said.

“He took such pride in presenting his community’s artwork and doing it in a professional manner,” Moreno said.

Most of the art in the Mexican museum’s collection was framed by Avina, Moreno said.

“It’s difficult to think of an exhibit that doesn’t have Rudy’s touch in there,” he said. “Almost every gallery in the museum has his work.

“It’s going to be really difficult to do the next exhibit without him,” Moreno said. “He was a part of the museum, part of the fabric of the Pilsen creative community.”

Down the street at Cafe Jumping Bean, a popular coffee shop on bustling 18th Street, Avina was also a presence and had been for more than 20 years.

“It’s hard to believe we won’t see you in the mornings for your coffee w/ice cubes and bagel,” the owner of the shop posted on Facebook. “Thanks for all the years of love and spirit; for your smile, your ‘homie’ discount, your camaraderie as a brother and your kindness.”

Avina had been friends with James Foley, the American journalist who was captured and killed by the Islamic State, Avina’s friends said. He helped organize a Pilsen mural for his slain friend, Solis said.

Avina was a vegetarian, loved to camp and was a musician who played the doumbek drum, friends said.

He was also the father of three teenagers — Mia, Carlos and Sofia, said Daniel Gutierrez Jr., whose family owns Nuevo Leon. Avina had been married to Gutierrez’s sister, but they had divorced.

Gutierrez Jr. said authorities told him surveillance video of the bar shows Avina having a beer or two at the bar and a “guy seems to be standing behind him for quite some time … and so he decided to slice his throat while he was sitting at the bar.”

An owner of Simone’s, Desiree Grant, said her staff is cooperating with the police.

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