At North Side car wash, gang graffiti gave way to a colorful mural with nods to Latin America
The street artist Haste from the artists collective F.Tribe Productions headed the project at Quiroga’s Detail & Hand Car Wash.
In March, the graffiti and gang tags on the wall of Quiroga’s Detail & Hand Car Wash gave way to a colorful mural — and the owner says he hasn’t had a problem with graffiti since.
“It’s kind of like putting up one of those disco balls in front of the store,” says Quiroga, who owns the building. “It just pops a lot when you’re walking down Milwaukee Avenue. It jumps at you.”
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. More murals are added every week.
The mural at 3389 N. Milwaukee Ave. pays tribute to different Spanish-speaking regions. The toucan and flamingo bookending the mural, for instance, are a nod to tropical areas of South America. The toucan perches on a stone Maya statue to honor the indigenous Maya people from Mexico and Central America. And the woman at the painting’s center bears a resemblance to the candied sugar skulls common at Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations.
The street artist Haste headed the project, collaborating with five others to complete the mural in mid-March.
“We, as a group, kind of like to improvise,” says Haste, 27, who lives in Norwood Park. “We never had anything finalized in stone before we started doing it.”
Most of the crew are members of F.Tribe Productions, an artists collective that’s been around since the 1990s that began with a group of friends with a love of hip-hop. Most of the members are Hispanic, giving the Milwaukee Avenue mural added significance for the artists, according to Haste. The artists usually charge only for the cost of materials.
Musicians, DJs, break dancers and visual artists alike have found a home in F.Tribe, says Damien Reyes of the Near West Side, who was introduced to the group a year or two after it started, when he was 14 or 15.
“I didn’t think that we would still be rocking together as much as we do now,” says Reyes, now 38. “A lot of us are almost 40 years old, have our own lives, kids, jobs, things like that.”
Reyes says he and his girlfriend Michelle Alvarez painted the toucan and Maya statue on the left side of the mural.
Haste — a nickname he got as a teenager for the speed with which he attacked most everything he did — painted the graffiti-style letters on the left half of the mural.
He joined F.Tribe about a year ago after meeting some members at the street art event Project Logan. He says he later “latched onto” the collective after going to an F.Tribe art event near the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Before that, the part-time muralist says, “I was still doing my fair share of mural work. It took it to a different level, working with this group. I’ve grown a lot technically, picking up, watching how they paint.”
Haste says he still hesitates to call himself an artist since it’s something he does on the side — he works in construction and has no formal art training beyond high school classes.
Haste says he painted his first mural when he was 16, scrawling “peace,” “unity,” “arts” and “Chicago” on an underpass in Edison Park.
The group he did the mural on Milwaukee Avenue with includes a friend he’s known since elementary school who goes by Josh “Classics,” 26, a tattoo artist from Lincoln Square who painted the woman at the center of the mural.
“I strive to always be inspired by something and create something better than what I got inspired by,” Classics says. “It sounds cliche, but I do get to leave my mark behind.”
Quiroga says he thought the mural at his car wash was going to be something simple, with just two or three colors. He didn’t tell the artists what to paint, only to stay away from anything political or having to do with religion.
He’s thrilled with the results — especially the bright pink and other colors in the flamingo, which “punch out at you.”
“It just gives a happy feeling to the area,” Quiroga says. “It’s a lot better than watching a plain wall and gang signs.”