El Abrazo Mural

Our murals continue the traditional mural style of story-telling and activism and pay homage to the many Pilsen murals that have been covered up or lost over the years. “El Abrazo”, translating to “The Embrace, was named with an overall three phase design in mind which would ultimately depict a mirrored outstretched arm embracing the garden’s portion of the El Paseo trail. 

The mural projects included a community driven process, from the artist selection to the design process and painting. We put a call out for artists through social media and selected a team that was local to the area. In order to create art that was relevant to the community, it was important that we chose local artists. Our artist team consists of a multi-generational group of artists that includes three lead muralists (Eric J. Garcia, Diana Solis, Katia Perez-Fuentes) and four to five high school age apprentices (listed below for their respective projects). 

For the design process we hosted community design meetings where neighbors come to sketch ideas and select themes they want to see. Some themes included immigration, Pilsen history, local art, environmental justice, and workers’ rights. All ideas presented at these design meetings are incorporated into the final designs in some form. For the first phase, the finalized design was presented at a project kick-off event hosted at the garden where documentaries about Pilsen were projected, including WTTW’s My Neighborhood: Pilsen. We also hosted volunteer days to help with the site preparation and ground leveling. The painting process for the first phase lasted three months and included a community paint day with over 100 volunteers of all ages.  The second phase mural was planned to be completed in one month and included a community paint day as well. For the final dedication event of each phase, the murals are registered with the annual Pilsen Open Studios Art Walk and a celebration is thrown in the garden. 

Throughout this mural process, we have found that community-driven art projects go beyond simple beautification and instill community pride, respect, stewardship, and vigilance of the space in which they reside. 

Phase II: 2019

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Artist Team: Eric J. Garcia, Diana Solis, Katia Perez-Fuentes
Apprentices: Jocelyn Tlapa, Natalie Alicea, Emmanuel Gomez, and Melissa Vargas
Funded by Country Financial and El Paseo Community Garden

The second phase honors the working class that continues to do the hard work that most of our society takes for granted. This mural also continues to honor the immigrant who is an intricate part of the United States workforce and economy, even though they are threatened by malicious legal and illegal acts against them.

Like the first phase, the silver outlines are snippets of fallen murals in the neighborhood.

Phase I: 2017

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Apprentices: Jasmin Martinez, Natalie Alicea, Natalie Aparicio, Jocelyn Tlapa, Yazmin Jimenez

Funded by DCASE 2017 Year of Public Art 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project Grant with a matching grant from the 25th Ward Alderman Solis. Apprenticeship funded by Country Financial

The first phase includes concepts of immigration, migration, borders, environment, agriculture, local histories (specifically the garden site), and lost murals of Pilsen. The mural describes Pilsen’s story, depicting some of its significant buildings and honoring its fallen murals in the gold outlines on the arm.