By LINDSAY WELBERS
A wall where graffiti artists had painted freely for more than 20 years was demolished Friday to make way for a 155-foot tall mixed-use building.
The Hyde Park graffiti wall was the last “permission wall” on the South Side. Artists and graffiti writers were able to hone their talents along the 50-foot long wall in the alley behind 1300 E. 53rd St.
Construction crews began demolishing the portion of the Mobil Gas station that had previously sat on the site and that abutted the wall Friday. Street artists had written permission from the owner to paint on the wall as far back as the early 1990s.
Bulldozers removed the brick wall with inches of paint attached to it from the site.
“It’s the last one on the South Side,” said Doug Freitag, who began painting on the wall in the early 1990s. “It was so open and free and not tucked away by some train tracks or something.”
Artists from across the city would come to the wall to paint because it was a place where graffiti would not receive police attention. Because Hyde Park has historically been a safe and diverse neighborhood, compared to other neighborhoods on the South Side, artists came into contact with other artists from around the city.
Freitag, who painted under the name Dwel, credits that exposure to diversity among the things that led him to a career as a professional artist.
“It was like a little hangout,” Freitag said. “It was a place you could go and just be. It’s going to be really weird to pass by there and not see that anymore.”
After nearly 25 years and two generations of artists, Freitag isn’t sure where or if another permission wall will take its place.
“It’s the end of an era,” Freitag said. “Especially for the youth of Hyde Park it was something special.”