Among the murals created in Aurora last year as part of a public arts blitz.

Among the murals created in Aurora last year as part of a public arts blitz.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Aurora arts effort results in 30 colorful murals including Mexican folk art, graffiti

The images include the fantastical creatures known as alebrijes — maybe you saw them as animated characters in the movie ‘Coco.’

Those brightly colored Mexican folk art objects of fantastical creatures known as alebrijes — maybe you saw them as animated characters in the movie “Coco” — can now also be found in Aurora.

They are the subject of a mural that was among 30 commissioned by the city as part of an arts initiative last year.

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 email a photo to murals@suntimes.com. We might do a story on it.

The alebrijes mural was done on a railroad viaduct near New York and LaSalle streets by four artists from Aurora: Laura Reyes, Janice Rodriguez, Catalina Diaz and Pierre Lucero.

All have Mexican roots, including Reyes, 24, who has family from Oaxaca, Mexico, where the objects traditionally are made, and who has some of them at her home in the form of wooden figurines.

Mexican folk art images adorn a viaduct wall in Aurora.

Mexican folk art images adorn a viaduct wall in Aurora.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

The other artists didn’t know much about alebrijes until “Coco,” which portrayed them as spiritual or mystical beings.

Among the alebrije images painted on a railroad viaduct in Aurora.

Among the alebrije images painted on a railroad viaduct in Aurora.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Diaz, 23, says the images in the murals are meant to represent their roots: “The colors feel like Mexico.”

“So many big cities value murals and public art, and street art has become more and more understood,” says Jenn Byrne, who oversees public art initiatives for Aurora. “We try to choose projects that represent the community and involve as many local artists as possible.”

Byrne’s department also co-hosted an event last summer at which 17 street artists painted graffiti-style murals on the walls at a city-owned parking lot at 14 Middle St.

Among the graffiti art painted in Aurora in August at an event overseen in part by artist Sam “Rogue” Cervantes.

Among the graffiti art painted in Aurora in August at an event overseen in part by artist Sam “Rogue” Cervantes.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Sam “Rogue” Cervantes helped oversee that effort. He’s been doing graffiti art since he was a kid.

“It was looked down upon” for a long time, but now has become more accepted, says Cervantes, 49.

A graffiti wall created in an Aurora city parking lot.

A graffiti wall created in an Aurora city parking lot.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Graffiti art created when Aurora brought in 17 street artists last August.

Graffiti art created when Aurora brought in 17 street artists last August.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

The public art effort also took in a number of utility boxes that control traffic lights.

Ali Cantarella, an artist from Albany Park, did one of those murals, featuring the reflection of a building’s windows at sunset and the outline of a flower.

Ali Cantarella’s mural on a utility box in Aurora.

Ali Cantarella’s mural on a utility box in Aurora.

Provided

“I think of Aurora as one of those cities that is pretty industrial,” with “a lot of bridges and buildings but also has a lot of nature, like the Fox River,” says Cantarella, 31. “Combining those two elements seems really Aurora-centric.”

At 105 E. Galena Blvd., there’s a towering mural by Rafael Blanco, 40, who teaches at Elmhurst University, titled “Diversity in Technology,” with a young Black woman surrounded by various tech widgets.

Rafael Blanco’s “Diversity in Technology” mural at 105 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora.

Rafael Blanco’s “Diversity in Technology” mural at 105 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

At 13 S. Broadway Ave., Amsterdam artist Judith “JDL” de Leeuw completed a mural titled “The Gift of Alexa and her MS,” showing a woman in a hospital gown with flowers behind her back. De Leeuw says it’s a tribute to someone she knew with multiple sclerosis.

Amsterdam artist Judith “JDL” de Leeuw completed this mural titled “The Gift of Alexa and her MS.”

Amsterdam artist Judith “JDL” de Leeuw completed this mural titled “The Gift of Alexa and her MS.”

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

The artwork collectively cost just over $100,000, paid for by a mix of city and private funding.

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

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