Washington Park Mural (Chicago, IL)
Artist: Montreal artist collaborative "En Masse" in collaboration with local Chicago artists
Date of Action: June 6, 2014
Region: North America
Location: Washington Park, Chicago
Confronting Bodies: The University of Chicago
Description of Artwork: The mural is showing grotesque and funny comic book-like monsters; in middle of the mural there are a comedy and tragedy mask. The focus of the controvery is a painted little boy holding a toy gun and a stuffed animal.
The Incident: Local residents started complaining about the mural, especially about the little boy, claiming it contained gang symbols and "negative" images. A few days after the mural went up, an 18-year-old man was murdered 4 blocks from the wall art. But it is unclear whether the complaints started before or after the murder. Several days later, after Cecilia Butler, the president pro-tem of the Washington Park Residents Advisory Council, asked Theaster Gates, director of the Arts and Public Life initiative at the University of Chicago, who had commissioned the mural through the Washington Park Art Incubator, to remove the mural because it was offensive to the broader community. The mural was whitewashed.
Results of Incident: A community meeting about the mural which the Life and Art Initiative promised Katherine Desjardins, the organizer of the mural, never happened. Instead, the staff of Washington Park Arts Incubator decided to use this wall as a rotating platform for other mural artists.