This mural at 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue is part of a series Juan De La Mora created in Chicago and Mexico depicting the process of making ancestral mezcal, the distilled Mexican spirit made from agave.

This mural at 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue is part of a series Juan De La Mora created in Chicago and Mexico depicting the process of making ancestral mezcal, the distilled Mexican spirit made from agave.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

At 26th and Ridgeway in Little Village, a dazzling display of murals

There’s a gas-mask-wearing skull, a cartoon dog, and a father and son making mezcal in the traditional fashion, among other images that surprise passers-by.

At first glance, the intersection of 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue doesn’t seem much different than any other block in Little Village. And then you see them: several large, detailed murals that vary in concept, style and color.

Chicago’s murals and mosaics sidebar

Chicago’s murals & mosaics


Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. Know of a mural or mosaic? Tell us where and send a photo to murals@suntimes.com. We might do a story on it.

One of the paintings, on the side of Moreno’s Liquors, 3724 W. 26th St., was done in 2018 by Chicago architect and artist Juan De La Mora. It’s part of a four-mural series he painted in Chicago and Mexico depicting the process of making ancestral mezcal, the distilled Mexican alcoholic beverage made from agave — a plant native to the southern United States and Latin America that’s harvested to make spirits and sweet syrup.

De La Mora, 41, says he took a sabbatical in 2017 to live with a family in a rural town in Oaxaca, Mexico, and learn about the process of making the mezcal.

The black-and-white mural shows a father and son working with cooked agave. De La Mora says the agave is smoked in ovens in the ground as part of the process, and he was able to bring home some of the charcoal from the family’s oven to use in creating the mural.

Juan De La Mora says he used charcoal on this mural from ovens in Mexico where agave was smoked to make mezcal.

Juan De La Mora says he used charcoal on this mural from ovens in Mexico where agave was smoked to make mezcal.

Juan De La Mora

The father in the painting is cutting into the cooked agave with a machete. The son, uncovering smoked agave, is there to represent how the art of making ancestral mezcal has been passed through generations, according to De La Mora.

He says the mural — sponsored by SACRED, a nonprofit organization that supports rural Mexican communities where agave spirits are made — found a fitting home at Moreno’s Liquors, owned by a father and son.

Artist Juan De La Mora, who took a sabbatical in 2017 to learn the process of making ancestral mezcal.

Artist Juan De La Mora, who took a sabbatical in 2017 to learn the process of making ancestral mezcal.

Juan De La Mora

Co-owner Michael Moreno Jr. says his family has always been interested in the arts, that he used to go see the many murals in Pilsen as a kid and expressed interest in bringing more murals to neighboring Little Village.

Pilsen’s murals are “very cultural, very festive, very inviting,” says Moreno, 29. “So I wanted to do more things like that in the neighborhood as well.”

This mural by Jay Jasso on an outside wall at Moreno’s Liquors is among several works of public art at 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue in Little Village.

This mural by Jay Jasso on an outside wall at Moreno’s Liquors is among several works of public art at 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue in Little Village.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

In the parking-lot patio of Osito’s Tap, 2553 S. Ridgeway Ave. — also owned by Moreno — Little Village muralist and tattoo artist Orlando Camacho used spray paint and acrylics to create a mural filled with cartoonish characters, Chicago landmarks and Latin American influences.

A mural by Orlando Camacho on the wall of the parking-lot patio at Osito’s Tap near 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue in Little Village.

A mural by Orlando Camacho on the wall of the parking-lot patio at Osito’s Tap near 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue in Little Village.

Provided

Osito the dog, the namesake of the bar, is depicted in Orlando Camacho’s mural at Osito’s Tap near 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue in Little Village.

Osito the dog, the namesake of the bar, is depicted in Orlando Camacho’s mural at Osito’s Tap near 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue in Little Village.

Provided

Camacho says he began painting as a kid and attended school at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“Osito’s Tap wanted somebody from the neighborhood who does artwork that they like that also kind of represented the feel of the neighborhood,” he says of the work he completed in June.

Just south on Ridgeway, a large graffiti-style mural spans the side of a brick building. Spray-painted by a local chapter of the national graffiti crew Graffaholics in March, the mural symbolizes the coronavirus pandemic, according to chapter founder Angel Garcia, 39.

It shows two characters in gas masks — one a skull and one a “futuristic, Gothic-type character,” according to Garcia.

He says, “Obviously, the gas mask is COVID,” representing “the deaths that came about because of the pandemic.” The Gothic character “kind of signifies the future, where we’re still going to be wearing gas masks. That is the new norm.”

This mural, done in March by the graffiti crew Graffaholics, represents the death toll of the coronavirus and the new norm of wearing masks.

This mural, done in March by the graffiti crew Graffaholics, represents the death toll of the coronavirus and the new norm of wearing masks.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

The Graffaholics crew has painted on that wall for nine or 10 years, typically switching out what’s there two to three times a year, Garcia says.

Across the street at A & D Chicago Live Poultry, 2601 S. Ridgeway Ave., several murals wrap around the building, illustrating chickens, a farm and other imagery.

Chicago artist Jose Escobar, 23, says he was painting nearby when the owner of the poultry store asked him to paint the side of the business.

Jose Escobar’s mural depicting a farm with ducks, chickens and other wildlife at A & D Chicago Live Poultry, 2601 S. Ridgeway Ave.

Jose Escobar’s mural depicting a farm with ducks, chickens and other wildlife at A & D Chicago Live Poultry, 2601 S. Ridgeway Ave.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Escobar, who lives in Pilsen, painted several murals outside the store, including a mountainous farm vista with ducks, chickens and other wildlife. He says the spray painted murals are just over a year old.

“He really just gave me the creative freedom to do what I want,” Escobar says. “I really enjoy making the community a lot better.”

Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals

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