Apr 27, 2023 - News

Chicago officials deny involvement in removal of Juice WRLD mural

The former site of the Juice WRLD mural that has now been painted over with brown paint in Chicago's West Loop.

The location of the now destroyed Juice WRLD mural. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

Public art fans are complaining and have launched a petition after murals of Juice WRLD and Frankie Knuckles were destroyed near the West Loop.

Why it matters: The iconic murals brought tourists from around the globe to honor the late Chicago hip-hop artist and house pioneer.

What they're saying: "People send me messages every few days and just tell me they went to see it and send me pictures and tell me where they're from," artist Cory Pane, who helped create the Juice WRLD mural in 2020, tells Axios.

  • "When you see this kind of thing happen where young people have this space to congregate to honor one of their own, to get that taken away like this, it has a bigger impact than just taking down a piece of art," Pane says.

Catch up fast: The murals lived in a parking lot off Kinzie Street, on a viaduct owned by Union Pacific Railroad. But the viaduct was recently painted over with a light brown paint.

  • The railway company denies having anything to do with the removal.
  • A spokesperson for the city's Streets and Sanitation Department tells Axios its crews "use white and 'wind tan' brown" when dealing with graffiti.

Yes, but: Streets and San officials deny painting over the murals. They even went to the site this week to compare paint and show that the brown they use is different from the one covering the art.

  • Officials say crews check with the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) before painting over murals.
  • DCASE keeps a public street mural registry, but when we asked, officials said the Juice WRLD mural was not on the registry and therefore not under their purview.

Between the lines: Ald. Walter Burnett, whose office denied involvement in the removal, told Block Club that staffers have received complaints about gatherings near the murals in the burgeoning West Loop neighborhood.

  • Streets and San has received two graffiti removal requests for the address over a two-year period, the latter request in May 2022.

The intrigue: A TikTok video posted in October shows workers painting over a portion of graffiti from the Juice WRLD mural at night. It remains unclear whether the two instances are connected.

  • Streets and San denied involvement in that paint job as well, as did Burnett's office and Union Pacific. According to Streets and San, their graffiti crews work from 6:30am-2pm, not nights.
  • Officials at the Illinois Department of Transportation, which is responsible for cleaning up graffiti along expressways, didn't respond to Axios' request for comment about its possible involvement in the removal.

The bottom line: "I felt honored to create something that brings that much happiness and that much meaning to somebody's life," Pane tells Axios.

  • "I would definitely love to come back out and do another one and bring it back to life."

What's next: Now that the viaduct is freshly repainted brown, the area has been freshly tagged.

Large block letters "TNF" are spray painted in silver on the site of the former Juice WRLD mural that has been painted light brown.
The site of the former murals on April 26, 2023. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

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