Title: History of the Packinghouse Worker
Site: 4859 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago
Artist: William Walker
Sponsors: Chicago Public Art Group
Year: 1974, restored 1998
Scale: 17 x 66 feet and 14 x 16.5 feet
Materials: Acrylic on masonry
Information: Chicago, “hog butcher to the world,” has little public art dealing with its rich legacy of workers’ movements. This artwork, among the nation’s most powerful labor murals, depicts the history of the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butchers Workmen Union. Painted on the former site of the union’s Local office, the right side of the mural shows monumental workmen of all races going about their slaughterhouse jobs with a quiet dignity; the left side shows union representatives and workers confronting bosses, demanding a union contract. The scene takes place on a chessboard, a recurrent Walker motif for representing competing social forces.
Influenced by Diego Rivera’s classical style of composition, it’s a complex, compartmentalized work filled with incident and detail. Almost lost to Chicago’s harsh weather, in 1998 the Chicago Housing Authority’s Hayes Family Investment Center commissioned CPAG artist Bernard Williams to restore the work.