Builders of the Cultural Present

Title:  Builders of the Cultural Present

Site:  71st Street and Jeffrey Boulevard, Chicago

Artists:  Mitchell Caton and Calvin Jones

Sponsors:  Chicago Mural Group

Year:  1981, restored 2001

Scale:  20 x 50 feet

Materials:  Original - enamel on masonry, restoration - acrylic paint on masonry

Information:  Combining Caton’s complex graphic style with Jones’s naturalistic figuration, this mural celebrates the kinship between traditional African and African-American aesthetic expression. Layered on a backdrop of African patterns and symbols, a Benin ceremonial mask, and portraits of Chicago African American artists--poet Gwendolyn Brooks and sculptor Marion Perkins--suggest how today’s creators continue to shape and be shaped by the materials of their cultural heritage. Perkins, one of the founders of the legendary South Side Community Art Center, advocated the importance of reconnecting with Africa in order to create a black aesthetic not dominated by Eurocentric standards.

Another significant Caton/Jones innovation to mural composition was the use of an irregular outer shape for the mural design, thus creating a strong spatial relationship between the painted surface and the entire wall.