“The ‘Solidarity’ mural inside the United Electrical Workers union hall at 37 S. Ashland Ave. illustrates struggles and successes of working people. In one scene in the mural, a Southern sheriff, a Ku Klux Klan member, an industrialist, a general and National Guard members are seen suppressing workers. Other images show people of different races clasping hands, a cartoonish corporate boss being forced to sign a contract and union leaders handing leaflets to factory workers.
“‘It’s a classic because it’s the first and maybe the only’ mural in Chicago ‘really dealing with union history, per se, in our generation,’ says John Pitman Weber, the Chicago artist who painted it with the late Jose Guerrero in 1974. Also, Weber says, ‘it’s unique compositionally,’ winding around a staircase, bending with the walls and adjusting for doorways and corners.
“But the mural could end up being destroyed because the building is headed toward a likely sale and redevelopment.
“‘The building is under contract, but there’s still a contingency for them to clear which won’t be resolved before mid-January,’ the union’s Carl Rosen says. ‘If it all clears, we’ll be moving out by mid-March. We’re in the process of getting videos and good photos.
“We’re also exploring with Chicago Public Art Group whether there are some ways to physically preserve parts of the mural, although that doesn’t sound real hopeful.”
“‘Yes, it’s bittersweet to leave the building. It’s been UE’s home in Chicago since 1947. Walking through the historic murals in the stairwell to get to our offices on the second floor has been a gift for decades. But we aren’t going far — we’ll be moving to space at another union hall not far away.’
“Weber says of his mural, “If we can save part of it, that’d be great. I don’t think we can save more than a few parts, but I don’t know if we’re able to save any of it, so meanwhile we’re trying to get it documented as well as we possibly can. (Sun-Times staff, 12/3/23)
Preservation Chicago has been working with preservation partners to explore options to save the historic murals.
Near West Side union hall’s sale could mean ‘heartbreaking’ destruction of historic union-themed mural; Completed in 1974 by Chicago artists John Pitman Weber and Jose Guerrero, the painting is inside the United Electrical Workers union hall, which soon could be sold and redeveloped, Sun-Times staff, 12/3/23