Hermosa residents to get new murals as part of art series

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Lou Ramos examines Gamaliel Ramírez’s painting during SRBCC’s public art series. | Manny Ramos/Sun-Times

Hermosa residents will get some new art added to their neighborhood as the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center concludes its public art series this weekend with the unveiling of several murals.

Omar Torres-Kortright is the executive director of SRBCC and helped organize the event. It’s part of a larger series dubbed Borinken Me Llama! Public Art Series produced by the SRBCC in collaboration with Puerto Rico’s Santurce es Ley. The series brings a combination of established and up-and-coming artist from Puerto Rico who were affected by Hurricane Maria and allows them to place murals across the neighborhood.

The murals were on display in Humboldt Park last week and will soon move to Hermosa.

“It is a really ambitious endeavor, we never have done something like this before. It all started after the hurricane,” Torres-Kortright said. “We have roughly a week to produce three murals, but we might be able to do four.”

SRBCC have enlisted three Puerto Rican artists for outside murals. Bik Ismo and Luis Alejandro Rodriguez are completing two separate 30-foot murals outside of the cultural center. Bik Ismo looks to use his mural as a means of addressing how the Puerto Rican government has purposefully miscounted the number of deaths following Hurricane Maria, whereas Luis Alejandro is taking an iconic image and repurposing it for a different meaning. The Stencil Network is also creating a mural on Keystone and Armitage but is much smaller than the other two.

While the outside murals are worked on, a collaborative project with the Puerto Rican group Colectivo Morivivi and local artist Sandra Antongiorgi is taking place inside the cultural center. The female collective is creating a five-panel-long mural that will be displayed inside of SRBCC, but they hope it can also be moved and displayed in other places.

Torres-Kortright said he has granted the artists the freedom to express themselves. The series kicked off last week with a discussion of how public art and communities intersect with each other — as well as a conversation of how the people of Santurce es Ley have been able to produce a successful independent public art festival in Puerto Rico.

“Santurce is a district in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has always been a depressed area with crime issues,” Torres-Kortright said. “But Santurce es Ley started reimagining the spaces and created amazing murals on abandon buildings. It started off small, but is now one of the most successful independent public art festival in Latin America.”

The SRBCC also celebrated the work of the late Chicago muralist, Gamaliel Ramírez, earlier this week for its public art series. Ramírez died in Puerto Rico a month ago, where he lived since moving to the island from Chicago in 2011. The SRBCC was working to bring him back to Chicago following Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the island on Sept. 20, 2017. Ramírez refused to leave Puerto Rico unless he was able to bring his murals with him.


Gamaliel Ramírez, dead at 68, his Chicago murals captured the beauty of Puerto Rico

“He was a very kind person and did anything he could to help his community,” said Lou Ramos, a friend of Ramírez who attended the event. “Although he moved to Puerto Rico, he still was always a Puerto Rican from Chicago and you could see it in the murals he painted.”

“I think the series is accomplishing what [Ramírez] always wanted to do,” Torres-Kortright said. “He was a creative force, and he is a symbol of displacement after Hurricane Maria.”

The symbol of being displaced is something Torres-Kortright believes many Puerto Rican artists are beginning to understand.

“I think the artists from Puerto Rico are seeing a lot of similarities of displacement with the Puerto Ricans living in Chicago,” Torres-Kortright said. “Whereas those on the island are being displaced because of the hurricane, Puerto Ricans are also being displaced as a result of gentrification here in Chicago.”

The inauguration of the murals will take place 2 p.m. Sunday at SRBCC.

The SRBCC’s Borinken Me Llama! Public Art Series programming lasts through Tuesday. On Monday and Tuesday, teens can take part in a screen printing workshop with local Puerto Rican artist Omar Velázquez. He will introduce the teens to the art of screen printing will later be adapted to a community mural at SRBCC.

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