Los Murales de Pilsen / The Murals of Pilsen

Neighborhood

Pilsen has long existed as one of the West Side’s barrios—an urban neighborhood where generations of Mexican immigrants and their families have established a community vibrant with the language, colors, and social traditions of Home. An earlier settlement of Czech and Bohemian immigrants developed much of the area in the late 19th century—predominantly workers and their kin who occasionally applied central European architectural detailing to vernacular Chicago buildings. In the 1960s, as the local demographics grew increasingly Hispanic, Mexican-style murals began to redefine Pilsen’s streetscape, emblazoned on the sides of existing residences, storefronts, schools, community centers, and rail embankments. Today, the neighborhood is unimaginable without these works of art, with new additions appearing all the time. Pilsen’s murals have evolved over the past half century, with each subsequent generation of artists responding to the stylistic and cultural context of their respective era. Those who came to the neighborhood decades ago incorporate techniques and politics championed by renowned Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Younger artists who came of age in the Hip Hop era are more likely to use spray paint and graffiti-inspired forms, while also employing more Pop Art and social media-inspired imagery to their work. Regardless of approach, the murals shed light on diverse perspectives and life experiences in a community that is both rooted in tradition and constantly evolving. This tour highlights a selection of Pilsen’s murals spanning five decades. Their images incorporate complex symbolism and depictions of both historic and contemporary community members. They depict ancient Aztec mythology and address contemporary struggles to bolster Pilsen’s cultural identity and support long-time residents amidst a rapidly gentrifying city. Audio commentary is provided by Luis Tubens, owner of Pilsen Public Art Tours, in conversation with muralists Sandra Antongiorgi, Hector Duarte, Sam Kirk, Ray Patlan, and Pablo Serrano. Audio engineering by Prize Beagle Recording. This tour is generously sponsored by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

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6 Sites

Little Village / Pilsen