Muralgate: Just Getting Warmed Up

The controversy over the Morse Avenue mural, currently being applied to the CTA overpass, only came to light this week. It is not over, in spite of what some may say. Rogers Park's artist community has been slighted, passed over. They - and the whole community - deserve an apology and an explanation from DevCorp and the 49th Ward alderman's office. Kheris, a local blogger for whom I have enormous personal respect, pronounced the current controversy over the DevCorp/CTA mural over Morse Avenue to be "Finis," finished, done, over. Let's just move on, forget the whole thing, right? I respectfully disagree that it's over. Kheris references a piece by local writer Marcy Sperry, who I also referenced in a post yesterday called "The Pain of Public Art." Kheris cites Sperry's piece as a nail in the coffin of Muralgate. That is simply wrong. While Marcy Sperry wrote that there is "a bigger picture" than this one mural over Morse Avenue, I would say that the mural is symptomatic of the ruling of Rogers Park by whim and fiat. To ignore the mural would be akin to ignoring the symptom of a disease. While the disease must be treated, so must the symptoms. And the symptoms, of course, indicate that there is a much bigger problem. Marcy Sperry correctly pointed out that there are empty storefronts along Morse Avenue (and throughout Rogers Park). Another mural is just a lame attempt to divert the peasants from seeing the problems. Do we ignore each of these individual problems because "there is a bigger picture?" One doesn't want to miss the forest for the trees, but we cannot forget that the forest is, after all, a big group of single trees. The gnarled DevCorp-Joe Moore forest can only be cut down one crooked tree at a time.


  1. Dear Mr. Mannis:

    I want to clarify to anyone reading that the sentence "Another mural is just a lame attempt to divert the peasants from seeing the problems" is not something I wrote. I would never refer to people in the neighborhood as "peasants." No matter how you meant that to sound, it made me uncomfortable to read it next to my name.

    I'm not sure what has empowered you to feel that you are the voice of Rogers Park artists, demanding apologies on our behalf. My original post also spoke of my dislike for non-artists who co-opt artists' voices and issues to suit their own purposes. To whom did you think I was referring?

    I have no problem if you want to continue with this issue--have at it. But personally, I'm done.


    Marcy Sperry

  2. First, I have no quarrel with you. I was complimentary to you and your blog. I did not mean to give the impression that you wrote that line; it was mine. Nor would I refer to folks as "peasants" - that was sarcasm meant to portray the way the 49th Ward power elite sees the people they nominally serve. I never claimed to be "the" voice of Rogers Park artists. But artists are residents, and I am a resident, and as such I am no more or less entitled to voice my opinion than you are. Your blog says that it tries to "honestly document the absurd business of trying to succeed as an artist and still maintain a shred of integrity." Honesty would compel some to pursue the betrayal of Rogers Park artists (residents) by DevCorp, a company whose mission statement it is to help businesses in Rogers Park. Artists are business people engaged in selling their artwork. As stated, this is not merely an artist issue. Artists are also residents and business people. It involves much more than just artists. Which business group will DevCorp betray next? If one wishes to be apathetic about this issue, so be it. But please do not criticize others for challenging the power elite's abandonment of the business people whose business it is to sell art. Carry on.

  3. Let me point out that because I'm declining to get on board with your "betrayal" campaign, that does not make me apathetic or afraid to challenge power. Far, far from it. Those would be false conclusions. Best of luck.

  4. Just home now, and saw this post at lunch but could not respond. In view of Marcy's comments (and now I see her comments here), my take on the mural is that it is the equivalent of cleaning up the patient so she'll look nice for the visitors passing through the ward. It isn't substantive in that it doesn't address exactly what you, and Marcy, referred to -- empty storefronts. The patient is seeing some positive changes (Common Cup and Andy McGhee's project to mention the ones I know about) but much remains to be done before we pronounce the patient well. Do we focus on the cleanup job (the mural) or do we focus on the illness that manifests itself via empty storefronts?

    Mind, I don't disagree with what you are saying about the mural being a distraction. But even Marcy pointed out that the focus of the complaints(local artists or not) was the wrong thing to emphasize. I do think we needed to do a better job from the get-go tying the mural to an overall message about community input, or lack thereof. Maybe that's the phrasing that is missing here, since the DevCorp North document keeps bringing up working with the community. Just how do they define 'the community'?

    Again, I don't disagree with you, but I do think we are each approaching this differently, and with some effort our approaches would converge.

  5. Dear Kheris,

    As for DevCorp's definition of "community," look at the top of their own web site. It says, "Welcome to DevCorp North, Rogers Park's business, community and economic development organization." That's a faily narrow definition.

    The fact that these are NOT local artists IS the point, and demonstrates the hypocrisy of DevCorp and Ald. Moore. This, in turn, is symptomatic of a larger syndrome of grafting their vision onto the neighborhood, public input be damned. We could look at each issue that way, I suppose, and say, "Well, that contractor had to shuck out ten grand in contributions to get the permits, but hey, that's the wrong thing to emphasize, let's look at the bigger picture." But in doing that you miss the bigger picture. Every jigsaw puzzle is made up of many pieces. Ignore one and you cannot complete the puzzle.

  6. Dear Marcy:
    Regarding your last comment, thank you and kindest regards to you. Keep up the fine work on your blog,


Thanks for commenting! Keep it classy.