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Street artists can register murals in a city database

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The mural registry is City Hall’s way of protecting hundreds of artworks

A mural by Don’t Fret in the Wabash Arts Corridor.
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Last year, graffiti artist JC Rivera finished a mural near the Brown Line Paulina stop. It was one of seven new murals funded by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. The artist took more than a week to complete the “Bear Champ” mural, however, it was only on display for a few days before city crews power washed it away. Someone had used 311 to report the work of art as a graffiti tag, and without hesitation it was erased.

In order to prevent mistakes like this, the city launched a mural registry to catalogue street art on public and private property. Artists, organizations, and building owners can protect murals from important artists—each work of art is assigned an ID and an official emblem from the city. And, there’s no charge.

“Public art in Chicago is very much a part of the spirit and quality of life in neighborhoods throughout the city,” said Mark Kelly, Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in a statement. “Not only will the new registry help protect these critical cultural assets, it will also create a portal for the public to access and explore where murals are located in every corner of the city.”

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The registry already has murals logged from artists like Chris Silva, Jeff Zimmerman, and Sam Kirk. But the database is far from complete. In 2017, the city celebrated the “Year of Public Art” which initiated hundreds of new works throughout neighborhoods. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) manages more than 500 works of art at libraries, CTA stations, parks and police stations.

The database can only be a resource if communities are using the tool to submit murals. It’s not just a way for the city to prevent artwork from getting removed, but also gives residents a way to explore and learn about the art in their neighborhood.

To promote the new registry, DCASE will have two public information sessions in the Millennium Park Room at Chicago Cultural Center from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday, April 22 and noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 30.