Pilsen alderman, CTA open applications for artists to update 18th Street Pink Line murals

“The goal is to create an art installation for the station while involving community youth,” the application reads.

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Portions of the murals at the 18th Street Pink Line station as seen from the 54th/Cermak side of the platform. Feb. 14, 2020.

Portions of the murals at the 18th Street Pink Line station as seen from the 54th/Cermak side of the platform on Feb. 14, 2020.

Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Two months after the CTA came under fire for whitewashing portions of murals inside the 18th Street station on the Pink Line, the transit agency has brought in Pilsen’s rookie alderman in its quest to find artists to renew and revamp the artwork.

The CTA originally planned to consider proposals from eight artists selected in partnership with the National Museum of Mexican Art to renew the decades-old murals at the station.

But those plans were never made public. And in December, a viral Facebook post showing portions of the murals being painted over drew ire from Pilsen residents.

In response to the backlash, the CTA agreed to consider two more artists selected by Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) in addition to the eight already in the running. His office is now taking applications for the two open spots.

Those artists must be able to work with youth in the neighborhood, have a “deep connection to the community” and not have an existing permanent art installation at any other CTA station, according to the application. The deadline to apply is Feb. 26.

The CTA will pick either one or two of the 10 artists for the project, and will pay the winners a total of $80,000. The transit agency said it will announce the winner or winners later this year.

“The CTA was moving forward with technical work to update these murals, but they were missing the emotional and cultural connection to the community that was required to make sure these murals continue to reflect the people of Pilsen,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

“After conversations and an openness from the CTA to collaborate with our office and the community, we’re ready to move forward.”


The entrance to the 18th Street Pink Line station in Pilsen. February 14, 2020.

Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

The current murals at the station were painted in the 1990s by Francisco Mendoza and several of his students, but the elements and graffiti taggers have chipped away at them over the years.

Mendoza grew up in South Chicago and taught at Peter Cooper Elementary and Jose Clemente Orozco Academy in Pilsen for more than 25 years. He died in 2012.

“Our commitment is to preserve the spirit and vision of [Mendoza] and his original artwork, which celebrates the Mexican heritage and Pilsen community,” the CTA said in a statement.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps members of Report for America,a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.

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