Chicago’s Cultural Department Launches Mural Registry | WBEZ
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Chicago’s Cultural Affairs Department Shares Public Database Of The City’s Murals

About six months after Chicago’s City Council passed an ordinance to create an online mural registry, the registry is live. Mark Kelly, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), says there are about 150 entries in the publicly accessible database. 

Kelly said registration is open to any artist, property owner or community group. “We always have to have the property owner signing off,” Kelly said. In order to meet the eligibility requirements of registration, Kelly said the work “can’t be a sign, there can’t be anything hostile or offensive in the work and it has to be in reasonably good condition.”

The commissioner said once it goes into the database, an emblem is created with a specific number that’s placed next to the actual mural. “Once the emblem is there, you can’t miss it and it’s a registered work and it’s protected by the city,” Kelly said. The department hopes the database will reduce instances of city departments painting over long-standing, well-known murals in the neighborhoods. Last May, the 25 year-old mural Es Tiempo De Recordar was painted over in Hermosa on Chicago’s Northwest Side. 

“We will educate our crews and make sure that they always look for that mark and honor it,” Kelly said. “In the past, there was nothing that clearly provided that information, so it’s a big step forward.”

Kelly said registration isn’t mandatory, but lamented that if artists opt out, they would be “denying the public access to their work.” The department hopes to register thousands of works and create a searchable database for the public.

Carrie Shepherd is a news reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @cshepherd.

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