The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this text, John Weber, a distinguished muralist and co-founder of the Chicago Mural Group, responds to a recent article about murals in Chicago and denies that Chicago’s mural scene is unique. He fears that such a term implies that the scene is isolated, provincial, or eccentric. Instead, Weber contends, the contemporary mural movement in the United States began in Chicago. The mural Wall of Respect had a profound influence and sparked the rebirth of public mural production around the country. Chicago muralists have had fairly regular communications with artists in other cities and have been recognized by artists from Boston to Mexico City to Honolulu as leading the movement. Moreover, Weber considers why the movement began in Chicago. He contends that speculation that it was an “effect” of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and the “ . . . ‘elitist’ teaching of its faculty . . . ” seems unfounded, as only three of the eight artists mentioned in this article attended SAIC, and two of those had previously been painting murals in Mexico. Weber argues that a more likely explanation is Chicago’s distance from both New York City’s art scene and the pressures of its marketplace. Other reasons include the continued presence of strong ethnic communities, the small scale of buildings outside of downtown, and the presence of artists dedicated to such work strongly supported by the communities in which they work. These communities fund the projects and often contribute ideas and labor. The big difference between these muralists and those of Mexico, Weber writes, is that the Chicagoan muralists lack corporate and municipal backing for their projects. Though Chicago muralists are “rapidly maturing,” Weber emphasizes that they continue to serve the community, hoping that corporate interests will begin to support them.
In this text, which appeared in the New Art Examiner in April 1975, the Chicago muralist John Weber responds to the article “Chicago Murals: Are They Our Best Public Art” (by Nory Miller and George Stahl in the March 1-2, 1975, issue of Panorama). This document addresses the themes “Issues of Race, Class and Gender in the Visual Arts of Latino-America” and “Art, Activism and Social Change” because it considers art’s role in promoting community consciousness in minority neighborhoods and art’s power to fuel activism. This article illustrates how murals appeared across Chicago in ethnic neighborhoods—with the support of community funding and involvement—and then inspired similar movements across the country. The existence of strong ethnic communities in Chicago was perceived and underscored as a key element in the development of the city’s mural movement, for they sustained the movement in spite of a near-total lack of corporate and municipal funding or support. The article includes photographs of four Chicago murals: Rip-off and Jazz Musicians, (Michael Caton and youth, 1974), El Exito (Ray Patlán and collaborators, 1972), Wall of Games (Don Pellett and youth, 1971–1972), and City Sounds (Barry Bruner and youth, 1973).