Sergio Maciel’s “Ice Cream Break” mural at 2100 W. Cermak Rd. in Pilsen, which he painted in August.

Sergio Maciel’s “Ice Cream Break” mural at 2100 W. Cermak Rd. in Pilsen, which he painted in August.

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In Pilsen mural, Sergio Maciel uses masks to celebrate the neighborhood’s diversity

Growing up in Chicago sparked the artist’s interest in the ‘differences between people and the commonalities between one another.’

“A beautiful painting is nice to look at,” Chicago artist Sergio Maciel says.

“But I don’t just want to create a beautiful painting,” says Maciel, who completed his latest mural, titled “Ice Cream Break,” in August at 2100 W. Cermak Rd. in Pilsen. “I want to create something with a message that is impactful and can start a conversation.”

Maciel, 40, was born and raised on the Northwest Side and, after leaving to get an arts degree, moved back in 2018 and eventually met Sam Kirk, the creative director for the agency Provoke Culture. Maciel worked with Provoke Culture on the four Chicago murals he’s done.

Kirk says she tries to help artists with “how to tell the story and what to include” but leaves it to them to come up with the design to “showcase their style.”

Artist Sergio Maciel.

Artist Sergio Maciel.

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Maciel says growing up in Chicago sparked his interest in looking at the “differences between people and the commonalities between one another.”

The title of his latest work, “Ice Cream Break,” plays on hip hop dance and an actual pause for a frozen treat.

Maciel painted it for the nonprofit Luv City, which offers digital media and film production programs and mentorship for at-risk youth, according to Dre Rodriguez, its founder and executive director.

Maciel says he asked kids there: “What is it that influences you? What is it that represents your neighborhood?”

From that, he landed on using masks to convey Pilsen’s diversity.

“It’s a really strong way of celebrating culture,” says Kirk, who also is a board member of Luv City.

One kid in the mural wears an African Goli mask, another a Puerto Rican vejigante mask, both used for celebrations.

To represent “elders of the culture,” Maciel included a man wearing an Aztec warrior mask.

And there’s also a boy in a “more modern” Mexican luchador mask.

“It was a reflection of the people involved with the project and of the neighborhood,” Rodriguez says.

Flanking either side are giant paletas, Mexican frozen treats.

Sergio Maciel’s “Manuel Perez Jr.” mural in Little Village, done in November 2021.

Sergio Maciel’s “Manuel Perez Jr.” mural in Little Village, done in November 2021.

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Last November, Maciel was chosen by the Foundation of Little Village to paint a mural of Manuel Perez Jr. — an Army paratrooper during World War II who lived near and worked in Little Village — for the plaza bearing his name at 4345 W. 26th St.

The mural features the sun from the flag of the Philippines — where Perez was killed in action in 1945. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, which can be seen in the mural.

In the background, there’s what Maciel describes as “a chunk of Aztec calendar representing his Mexican culture and the culture that resides in the rest of the neighborhood.”

Kirk says details like these help the mural “share history beyond just a portrait.”

Sergio Maciel’s “Knowledge” mural at 161 W. Ninth St., done in June.

Sergio Maciel’s “Knowledge” mural at 161 W. Ninth St., done in June.

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In June, Maciel completed a mural for the British International School of Chicago at 161 W. Ninth St. It includes three birds perched on the “tree of knowledge,” a pigeon to represent the city, a cardinal as Illinois’ state bird and another bird, a Puerto Rican tody, to represent the artist’s background. Maciel has Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage.

Sergio Maciel’s Brighton Park mural, done in August 2021.

Sergio Maciel’s Brighton Park mural, done in August 2021.

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In August 2021, Maciel painted a mural near 47th Street and Archer Avenue in Brighton Park to “emphasize a rebuilding.” It shows a man and a boy working to build the neighborhood, the boy using toy blocks. The artist says it shows “the older teaching the young how to build and maintain” a community.

Maciel says that, in all of his work, he aims to include something that’s a part of himself.

“It’s probably one of the bigger things — representing my voice — because that’s the only thing I have control of,” he says. “It’s just trying to translate that in a way that’s understandable for the masses and in a way that’s beautiful for people to see.”

Murals

Chicago’s murals & mosaics


Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.

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

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