Chicago is currently considering a public art registry in response to 'accidental' mural removals and surface scrubbing that has taken place this year. What city workers mistook for every day 'nusiance' graffiti was in some cases much loved – and even commissioned – street art created by artists from around the city. This past spring, overexuberant and prevasive efforts to spiff up the area around Amazon's hoped-for new northside home, should it choose Chicago for HQ2, led to the City's Streets and Sanitation department taking down a work by French artist Blek le Rat at the Cards Against Humanity offices. Blek le Rat has exhibited with Chicago's Vertical Gallery and is widely known as the Godfather of modern street art.
A decade-old mural in Wicker Park, this one by acclaimed Chicago-based street artist Hebru Brantley, was accidentally painted over (after first being vandalized) by city workers who mistook it for graffiti earlier this year. The mural, which depicts Brantley's signature Flyboy characters, was one of the artist's earliest. This week Brantley completed a new mural in the original location, funded by Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area (SSA) #33. The community missed the work so much once it was covered up that they made a point of funding its replacement.
“Public art is a vital part of the Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods. Supporting and maintaining these works has always been a major part of our mission—the streets are a public art museum that we are constantly curating,” said WPB SSA #33 Commission Chair Brent Norsman. “We’re thrilled Hebru Brantley was able to return and create this new piece, and we’re working with Alderman Brian Hopkins and other city officials to ensure that public murals like Brantley’s will not be mistaken for graffiti in the future.”
More murals have been coverd up this year, which is why the city and the Department of Cultural Affairs are trying to make an effort to designate which works are also art that must be preserved. The proposed ordinance states, "The owner of any building or structure that has art on it may voluntarily register with the department of streets and sanitation by filing a registration statement on a form provided by the department. The registration remains valid until the owner notifies the department to remove the building or structure from the registry provided for in this paragraph." The hope is also that a registry will then be publicly available on the DCASE web site as well as searchable with a mapping system.
Image: Hebru Brantely paints new mural in Wicker Park - Photo by Kessel Cherney