Sep 27, 2023 - News

Loop murals unveiled after neighbor complained design was too political


"Votes for Women" and "Speak Up!" murals in Wabash Arts Corridor. Photo: ©️Sandra Steinbrecher.

South Loop murals planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 2020 are finally complete after a standoff with a neighbor.

Why it matters: The three works represent the nation's largest public art project commemorating women's suffrage.

Driving the news: The Wabash Arts Corridor and the Chicago Womxn's Suffrage Tribute Committee, which commissioned the murals, are holding a public dedication and unveiling of the works Thursday.

Context: The first mural in the series, "On the Wings of Change" by Diosa, was completed in 2021 and features a young girl holding a book, framed by flying pages filled with the faces of 10 suffragists.

  • Another mural, called "Votes for Women," features a large yellow rose — the symbol of the suffrage movement.
"On the Wings of Change" in Wabash Arts Corridor. Photo by ©️Sandra Steinbrecher

Dorian Sylvain's "Speak Up!" was scheduled to be completed in 2021 but was delayed until this summer due to a dispute with a nearby parking lot owner.

  • It presents large blue text of the famous words that then-VP nominee Kamala Harris uttered during the 2020 debates: "I'm speaking."

Catch up fast: Sylvain and her crew were getting ready to begin work on the mural planned for the east facing wall of University Center at State and Harrison in 2021 when the owner of the adjacent parking lot, Thomas Baryl, blocked them from accessing the space.

  • Baryl didn't want Sylvain's team to use his lot to complete the work, because he viewed "Speak Up!" as too political and was concerned it would scare away customers, according to Meg Duguid, chief curator of public arts program Wabash Arts Corridor.
  • Baryl confirmed to Axios that he wants the art to be "apolitical."

What happened: Rather than continue the fight, the Wabash Arts Corridor moved "Speak Up!" and "Votes for Women" to 623 S. Wabash, directly across the street from "On the Wings of Change."

What they're saying: Back in 2021, when Carrie reported the story for City Cast Chicago, Sylvain said "Speak Up!" was designed to "celebrate the first female vice president in the United States."

  • Now two years later, the artwork serves as a reminder of "the challenges women and people of color face in having their voices heard, as well as the progress made for greater participation in politics and policymaking," Duguid says.

What's next: The public can attend the mural's dedication Thursday night at Columbia College's Haus event space at 623 S. Wabash.


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