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Murals in Chicago: Mystery of the murals in Little Village solved; now the work of Aurelio Diaz is due for restoration | Pro Club Bd

As part of an aging mural near Cermak Road and California Avenue, the words are painted in English and Spanish: “Where do real ideas come from? Do they fall from the sky? no Are they innate to the mind? no They come from social practice and only from it.”

The easy-to-find quote is from the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

But there’s no name or other mark to identify who painted the mural, titled Education for the People, which dates to the late 1970s and is filled with imagery, including a man with a wrist in one Shackle that says “Chicano” and the other arm tied by a rope.

Artists have wanted to know who painted it, hoping to restore the mural, which has faded and chipped.

“I’ve often wondered about the author,” says Jeff Huebner, a Chicago-based historian and mural writer. “For a long time we thought it was Aurelio” Diaz, but were “not quite sure”.

Diaz, who now lives in Mexico and is also by Aurelio Diaz Tekpankalli, confirms that he painted Education for the People with the help of other artists.

Artist Aurelio Diaz in 2020.

He said efforts are underway to refresh the old painting, but he’s in favor “if they do something of that quality” of the original.

Hübner describes Diaz as the “most prolific and dedicated community muralist in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s” of Pilsen and Little Village.

In 1978, “He painted several murals on Cermak between California and Kedzie sponsored by an organization called Residents for a Better Marshall Square Community,” Hübner says.

He says “some of its exterior work has survived,” though many are “in a dilapidated state.”

Diaz also created a 22-face mural on 16th Street in 1976 with the help of students from the nearby parish of St. Procopius.

This mural on 16th Street was made by Aurelio Diaz in 1976 with the help of students.  It has been restored by artist Sam Kirk and is part of a public art circuit known as the Galeria del Barrio.

This mural on 16th Street was made by Aurelio Diaz in 1976 with the help of students. It has been restored by artist Sam Kirk and is part of a public art circuit known as the Galeria del Barrio.

Rick Majewski / Sun Times

The fact that the “education for the people” has remained largely intact “shows how much it is respected in the neighborhood simply by its longevity,” says Hübner.

Diaz painted the mural on the side of a brick building that houses a hardware store. It’s across the driveway from a Subway sandwich shop.

Gloria Talamantes is one of the artists hoping to restore it.

“It’s important to keep that going so we can continue to educate about the history of the area and the rich art history of Little Village,” says the South Lawndale artist.

“Education for the People” from the perspective of the late 1970s.

Collection C. William Brubaker / UIC

Talamantes says Diaz’s mural teaches her “that there is power among the people.”

She says “there are things we don’t learn in school” that can be learned “from murals and fine art.” Last year, alongside Education for the People, she and Deliah Salgado created a mural titled Modern Warriors to “create a dialogue for youth in our communities about online safety.”

Artists Delilah Salgado and Gloria Talamantes created this mural titled Modern Warriors alongside Education for the People last year.

Artists Delilah Salgado and Gloria Talamantes created this mural titled Modern Warriors alongside Education for the People last year.

Robert Herguth / Sun Times

The two children in the painting sit back-to-back — symbolic, Talamantes says, for the saying, “I have your back.”

In June, Talamantes, Jamiah Calvin, and a Mexican artist named ROCO created another mural on the other side of Diaz’s artwork.

This mural, titled Joy, was installed next to Education for the People in June.  It was made by artists Gloria Talamantes, Jamiah Calvin and ROCO.

This mural, titled Joy, was installed next to Education for the People in June. It was made by artists Gloria Talamantes, Jamiah Calvin and ROCO.

Robert Herguth / Sun Times

Talamantes says the new mural, titled ‘Joy,’ is meant to ‘uplift everyone who walks by, but it’s also meant to be a representation of the neighborhood. Cermak is generally a kind of dividing line between the African American community and the Latino community. We want to continue the work of solidarity between races.”

The artwork was part of the Brown Wall Project, “a citywide public art initiative to beautify those areas of Chicago plagued by brown-polished walls,” created by city crews who use brown paint to cover up what they believe to be graffiti.

Click on the map below to see a selection of murals in the Chicago area

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