What We See—Lo Que Vemos

Title:  What We See—Lo Que Vemos

Site:  Viaduct at 3600 W. Hirsh, Chicago

Artists:  Juan Angel Chávez

Community Participants:  Youth volunteers- Maria Garcia, Jazmine Salgado, Dulce Muñoz, Dorthea Collins, Cathelean Page, David Collins, Raymond Collins, Yessenia Rodriguez, Jose Melendez, Erika Butler, Sean Novelo, and Tanisha Stigger; Adult Volunteers- Damon Reed, Rob Villanueva, Jeremy Barbour, Talia Maltz, Chris Silva, Jennifer Swenson, and David Cuesta

Sponsors:  Chicago Public Art Group and Blocks Together

Year:  2001

Scale:  846 square feet

Materials:  Acrylic paint on concrete

Information:  In 2000, artist Juan Angel Chávez gave disposable cameras to 12 youths and asked them to take pictures of their West Humboldt Park neighborhood. The images, both positive and negative, have been collaged together to create What We See--Lo Que Vemos, a 94-foot-long mural in the METRA viaduct at Hirsch and Monticello. The kids and seven volunteer artists helped paint the work, which was cosponsored by the Blocks Together community organization and was completed in the summer of 2001.

While not dwelling on the bad side, What We See presents an honest and multi-layered view of the students’ urban surroundings--from residents maintaining homes to youths playing sports to junked cars and stray dogs. Police cruise the streets while abandoned houses are saved from demolition.

The mural’s novel design was partly laid out on a computer. Superimposed over the collaged scenes are portraits of some of the youths along with their handwritten quotes, in English and Spanish, describing the neighborhood. Comments run the gamut from “Too much graffiti drawing, killings, & shooting in the neighborhood” to “I see people walking dogs, people hanging out, playing ball. You know, normal everyday things.”

Chávez and his crew expanded the definition of a “normal, everyday” mural.