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The mural titled “Home,” done by the Mural Mafia at 16th Street and Ashland Avenue.
The mural titled “Home,” done by the Mural Mafia at 16th Street and Ashland Avenue.
Vittoria Benzine

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Mural Mafia brings its graffiti-oriented take on public art to Chicago

The traveling group of artists is aiming to have murals in all 50 states. Its recent work includes pieces along the Hubbard Street viaduct, at 16th and Ashland and at Grand and Chicago.

To the Mural Mafia, a traveling group of muralists, a “piece” isn’t a weapon. It’s short for an artistic masterpiece.

On recent visits to Chicago, members of the group created a series of pieces, including one, titled “Home” and completed this past summer at 16th Street and Ashland Avenue, that depicts Mother Earth holding a globe to send a message about environmental sustainability.

Another mural, called “Power to the People,” completed last summer near Grand and Chicago avenues, features images of five racial justice figures: Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis and Nelson Mandela.

The Mural Mafia’s piece “Power to the People,” at Grand and Chicago avenues, features images of five people who fought for racial justice: (from left) Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis and Nelson Mandela.
The Mural Mafia’s piece “Power to the People,” at Grand and Chicago avenues, features images of five people who fought for racial justice: (from left) Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis and Nelson Mandela.
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“We are trying to put out positive messages of hope, love and equality,” says the Mural Mafia member who goes by Menace.

Some of the group’s other works are just for fun. Like the mural in the 600 block of West Grand Avenue that includes images of singers Jennifer Hudson and Aretha Franklin, also completed last summer.

Singer Jennifer Hudson in a mural in the 600 block of West Grand Avenue by the graffiti art crew known as the Mural Mafia.
Singer Jennifer Hudson in a mural in the 600 block of West Grand Avenue by the graffiti art crew known as the Mural Mafia.
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The group did another mural on a railroad viaduct along Hubbard Street at Aberdeen Street, in a stretch that includes dozens of murals, some dating to the 1970s. That Mural Mafia creation, done in December, features an underwater scene and showcases the styles of Mural Mafia artists Menace, Resa, Lindsay and another muralist, who goes by Task 2, who has worked with the group in Chicago. Each took on a different section of the wall.

The Mural Mafia did this an underwater-themed mural at Hubbard Street at Aberdeen Street. Among the artists who worked on it were (from left) Task 2, Menace, Resa and Lindsay.
The Mural Mafia did this an underwater-themed mural at Hubbard Street at Aberdeen Street. Among the artists who worked on it were (from left) Task 2, Menace, Resa and Lindsay.
Amelia Ickes / Sun-Times

Menace and Resa got their starts with graffiti art in New York before moving to Los Angeles, Lindsay is from Chicago, where she says the graffiti scene is more community-oriented than it is in other cities where the group has worked.

The Mural Mafia is aiming to have murals in every state.

“We want to be a community service for people in every state or small town we go to,” Resa says. “The first thing all American schools cut from their funding is arts education, but we believe it is so pivotal for child development.”

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