WIN: Funds Raised to Rescue United Electrical Workers Union Hall Mural

 

A portion of the “Solidarity” mural at the United Electrical Workers union hall at 37 S. Ashland Ave. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
A portion of the “Solidarity” mural at the United Electrical Workers union hall at 37 S. Ashland Ave. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
A portion of the “Solidarity” mural at the United Electrical Workers union hall at 37 S. Ashland Ave. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
A portion of the “Solidarity” mural at the United Electrical Workers union hall at 37 S. Ashland Ave. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
A portion of the “Solidarity” mural at the United Electrical Workers union hall at 37 S. Ashland Ave. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
A portion of the “Solidarity” mural at the United Electrical Workers union hall at 37 S. Ashland Ave. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
A portion of the “Solidarity” mural at the United Electrical Workers union hall at 37 S. Ashland Ave. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
A portion of the “Solidarity” mural at the United Electrical Workers union hall at 37 S. Ashland Ave. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago

“The United Electrical Workers union is teaming up with an art group to save a historic mural inside its Near West Side meeting hall, a space that will soon be developed into apartments.

“The sprawling mural, titled ‘Solidarity,’ spans the building’s two lobbies and central staircase, narrating the history of industrial unionism. A team of artists painted the vibrant work in the style of Diego Rivera between 1973 and 1974.

“‘To be surrounded by the mural is just tremendously inspiring and empowering,’ said Carl Rosen, the union’s general president. The organization, also known as the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, represents tens of thousands of workers nationwide. ‘It’s so important that it’s being preserved.’

“The Chicago Public Art Group worked with UE to raise over $200,000 for the massive preservation project. Conservators will painstakingly remove the delicate mural from its plaster walls.

“‘It’s really important for us to safeguard and protect these old works of art that preserve the history and culture of the union labor movement,’ said Chantal Healey, executive director of the Chicago Public Art Group.

“The mural depicts striking scenes of workers’ struggles and triumphs in the 20th century. Lead artists John Pitman Weber and the late Jose Guerrero petitioned the union to paint the hall, eager to break into the budding community mural movement.

“Rosen said the UE made the difficult decision to sell the union hall two years ago. The two-story brick building on South Ashland Avenue was originally built for the West End Woman’s Club in 1904. The club regularly met philanthropic and educational work, advocating for social reform, according to Chicago Public Library records.

“In 1948, the western region of UE moved in, continuing the building’s legacy as a space for social advocacy. The building has been featured in the Chicago Architecture Center’s annual Open House Chicago tour.

“Donations are still needed to preserve the work, the organizations said. The $200,000 raised is only enough to remove about 75% of the mural. Even saving small sections is an extremely complicated process, according to Healey.

“Conservators must carefully cut out the backings of the walls before carving around the images. Some of the plaster pieces, which weigh hundreds of pounds, have to be hoisted out of the building.

“‘If we had been able to look into the future, we might have wanted to do it on panels,’ Weber said with a laugh.

“Some sections that were already removed were painted on load-bearing walls, so workers had to construct makeshift supports to ensure the integrity of the building.

“The fragmented pieces will be displayed in the office of the Chicago Teachers Union, as well as a UE building in Erie, Pennsylvania. UE plans to rent office space from the CTU, allowing the mural to remain visible to members.” (Armanini, Chicago Tribune, 3/11/24)

Read the full story at Chicago Tribune

 

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