[Image: Tadao Cern]
[Image: Tadao Cern]
Obit of the Day: Man of Many Murals
When William Walker organized the painting of The Wall of Respect in 1967, he had not planned to begin a national movement of public art. The mural, painted by dozens of Chicago artists, featured prominent African American politicians, scientists, musicians and artists. It is recognized as the first public mural, a style that now dots urban landscapes. (These murals differ from other murals, such as those painted in post offices under the auspices of the WPA in the 1930s, because they are often sponsored by individual neighborhoods or businesses. The murals are also located on an exterior wall making them available for all passersby to see.)
Walker would, by himself and in partnership with others, paint seventeen murals between 1967 and 1988. The murals were never simply attempts to beautify a building or neighborhood but were social and political statements. Two early Walker murals are in Detroit including the Harriet Tubman Memorial Wall, but the rest of his works were painted on the south side of Chicago.
Since many of Walker’s murals are painted on privately owned buildings, they were often neglected or destroyed over time. There was a concerted effort to preserve several Walker murals for the last decade and a half, including History of the Packing House Worker (1975, restored in 1998), Childhood Is Without Prejudice (1977, restored in 1993 and 2009), and Wall of Dreaming and Man’s Inhumanity to Man (1973, restored in 2003).
Walker was named “City Brightener” by the city of Chicago in 1986 and is a member of the Illinois Labor Society’s Hall of Honor.
He died at the age of 84.
Images courtesy of:
Top left - Blackqueen: press (Childhood Is Without Prejudice)
Top right - Sherrinemae’s photostream on Flickr (Wall of Daydreaming and Man’s Inhumanity to Man)
Bottom left - Mad About the Mural (All of Mankind, 1971-1973)
Bottom right - http://ms-f10-bsykes.blogspot.com (Childhood Is Without Prejudice)