“Earlier this year, Lake View resident Pamela Monaco read about a debate dividing the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. Three schools there were in the process of removing government-funded,Depression-era murals after some students at those schools raised concerns that the art didn’t reflect the diversity of their student body.
“As a supporter of preserving historic art, this concerned Pamela. So she turned to Curious City with a question:
“How many government-funded, Depression-era murals are left in the Chicago area, and how many have been destroyed or removed over the years?
“According to the book Art for the People by Heather Becker, nearly 500 murals were created in Chicago during the Great Depression as part of federal jobs creation programs, chief among them the Works Progress Administration, or WPA.
“However, according to Art for the People, almost half of those murals — or at least 220 — are no longer on display. Many have been destroyed, lost, painted over, or sold, while others — as is the case in Oak Park — have been deliberately removed due to pushback from local residents.
“Some of these objections happened soon after the paint dried, while others occurred years later, as views of sensitive subjects like race and ethnicity have evolved. Below are the stories behind just a few area murals that have sparked controversy over the years. Taken together, they illustrate shifting definitions of the value and purpose of public art.”