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Back to School: Our Favorite Things
Detail from mural at the 18th Street el stop

Detail from mural at the 18th Street el stop

Jim Newberry

The Murals at the 18th Street El Stop

To my eyes the el windows frame ever-changing portraits of Chicago. My favorite is at the 18th Street stop on the Blue and Pink lines, where bright murals—a red beast baring fangs, a man in a green vest smiling at his dance partner—line the platform. In 1993 the CTA, with the city-run youth art program Gallery 37 and the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum (now the National Museum of Mexican Art), commissioned art teacher Francisco Mendoza to beautify the station. Mendoza enlisted his students at Gallery 18, a satellite program of Gallery 37, along with anyone else in the neighborhood who could paint. “It was like having a jazz session,” he says. “Artists would come up and say, ‘I can paint, I have an idea,’ and I would give them the colors they needed.”

Pilsen got its predominant cultural flavor in the 60s and 70s, as Mexicans, enticed by liberal immigration laws and displaced by the University of Illinois at Chicago, outnumbered the Slavs who’d preceded them. Chicano artists nationwide took to the streets to express themselves, in a nod to the artists of the mural movement that flourished in Mexico in the 20s, just after the revolution—a tradition that continues today. “We might not be here in a couple of years, so we try to leave a whole story of how things are going,” says Jose Guerrero, who’s been involved in the Pilsen art community since 1973. He conducts tours of the neighborhood’s many murals, including one of activists Rudy Lozano and Cesar Chavez and Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata at Bishop and 18th that he and others painted in 1997 to protest gentrification. “I think people that just pass through Pilsen get a feeling of a lot of artwork,” Mendoza says. “It’s almost like a feeling of festivity—fiesta.” 1710 W. 18th, Pilsen. —Brenna Ehrlich

We also want to hear your stories about your favorite people, places, and things in the city--go here to share them with the rest of the class.


A & T Grill
Elizabeth M. Tamny

All Rise Gallery
Liz Armstrong

The Ando Gallery at the Art Institute
Tamara Faulkner

Bartender Ballet at the Violet Hour
Mike Sula


The Basement of After-Words
Monica Kendrick

The Blue Crab Lounge at Shaw’s
Michael Lenehan

The Butcher Shop
Noah Berlatsky

Deborah Butterfield’s “Ben”
Ryan Hubbard


The Diary of Virginia May Garcia
Noah Berlatsky

The Fern Room at the Garfield Park Conservatory
Martha Bayne

Fine Wine Brokers
Kathie Bergquist

The Grid
Bill Savage


Hideout Dance Parties
Martha Bayne

Jazz Record Mart and Dusty Groove
Peter Margasak

Jollyball at the Museum of Science and Industry
Noah Berlatsky

Ken Dunn
Mick Dumke


The Lobby Bar at Second City
Albert Williams

Lost & Found
Kathie Bergquist

Manhattans at the Matchbox
David Hammond

Matinees at the Music Box
Adam Langer


Marina City
Lynn Becker

The Mausoleum at Rosehill Cemetery
Kerry Reid

Monday Night at Sidetrack
Zac Thompson

Monday Night Farm Dinner at Lula Cafe
Peter Margasak


Moo & Oink
Mike Sula

Music Box Massacre
J.R. Jones

The Murals at the 18th Street El Stop
Brenna Ehrlich

The Newberry Library
Harold Henderson


The North Branch Trail
Jennifer Sodini

Open Mike at Gallery Cabaret
Julia Rickert

Outdanced!
Liz Armstrong

RUI: Reading Under the Influence
Kathie Bergquist


Silent Summer Film Festival
J.R. Jones

Sunday Transmission at the Hungry Brain
Peter Margasak

The Sweet Spot at the Empty Bottle
Miles Raymer

Textile Discount Outlet
Tasneem Paghdiwala


The Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute
Albert Williams

Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theater
Albert Williams

Wil Hasbrouck
Harold Henderson

The Window Seat at Letizia’s
Emerson Dameron


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