Hyde Park Arts Center to design mural inspired by Wall of Respect

Staff Writer

The Hyde Park Arts Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., is working toward producing a mural, the “Wall of Now,” to display in the coming months that will be featured on south side of the building facing South Cornell Avenue.

Allison Peters Quinn, director of exhibitions and residency programs, said the idea for a mural was inspired by the upcoming 50th anniversary of the “Wall of Respect” and from conversations had with street artists who say there is a lack of permission walls in the city of Chicago.

The “Wall of Respect,” erected on 43rd Street and Langley Avenue, was an outdoor mural project on the south side that was created in 1967 by visual artists. The artists were from a group called the Organization of Black American Culture.

The theme for the mural was “Black Heroes.” Other sections of the wall were repainted and showcased images from the Civil Rights movement.

In 1971, the wall was damaged by fire and later demolished.

Permission walls are walls that owners have allowed for individual artists to use for their art. The walls are “safeguarded they are not going to be torn down,” Peters Quinn said. “They are not going to be painted over. There’s a trust and a relationship between the owner and the artist.”

The forthcoming “Wall of Now” is in the very early planning stages. Peters Quinn has reached out to a team of artists including Hyde Park-based artist Liz Lazdins, Miguel Aguilar, and Rahmaan Barnes. The trio has agreed to be lead artists for the project.

The artists meet monthly and are sketching out their plans. Peters Quinn said they would also include other artists in the community and teens who are enrolled in Hyde Park Arts Center programming to assist on the mural.

“The plan is to think about what the current issues are today in Hyde Park, and on the South Side and Chicago overall, but what are people concerned about and how we can try to give some opportunity for communication about issues,” Peters Quinn said.

Also, she wants the project to provide hope and resistance to the present landscape in contemporary politics.

“It’s not just mosaics on a wall it’s thinking about how video can play a role and how technological advances can be a part of that,” said Peters Quinn. “The “Wall of Respect”used photography, which was new at that time for murals. They used performance and music to activate the wall to activate the site within the community. We wanted to think about this mural in the same way to activate the space and to think about other ways a mural could exist other than just a painted wall.”

The Hyde Park Arts Center will also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the “Wall of Respect” by demonstrating a show of work by William Walker that is owned by Chicago State University. Walker is one of the founders of the “Wall of Respect.”

Peters Quinn stated that they hope to have the piece completed by early September. The Hyde Park Arts Center was recently named as a community anchor site for the Chicago Architectural Biennial this year. The Arts Center would like to feature the wall as one of the components for the Biennial.

The Hyde Park Arts Center aims to have the future “Wall of Now,” be a living mural.

“As situations and events come up in politics and in the community we can change the wall and address those issues at any time,” Peters Quinn said. “It’s not fixed in that once it’s up it’s going to be that way forever. We will constantly be changing it and updating it.”