Pilsen Possum Mural Still Raising a Stink

By Chloe Riley on June 18, 2013 10:35am | Updated on June 18, 2013 10:52am

 A possum mural, which some have said resembles a rat, at 16th Street and Ashland Avenue
A possum mural, which some have said resembles a rat, at 16th Street and Ashland Avenue
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Brock Brake

PILSEN — Almost a year after its creation, a possum mural at 16th Street and Ashland Avenue is still getting mixed reviews, with some calling it "offensive and tasteless."

After the Pilsen Portal posted a Facebook photo on June 6, many voiced their displeasure with the mural, which depicts a gray possum with a gaping hole though its body. 

“That’s not a possum, that’s a RAT!” wrote one critic.

“I love street art but I truly don’t like this piece," the critic said. "To me this piece is pretty much saying that Pilsen is a rat-infested neighborhood and that the people in it live under filthy and dirty conditions! Not a positive imagine for Pilsen!”

Added another: “I’m sorry but this mural not good! My family doesn’t like passing by there."

“This image is quite disturbing and violent … and Pilsen doesn’t need that kind of image here anymore!” said a third poster.

“I know a lot of people in the community are upset,” said Ana Padilla, a coordinator at the nonprofit Pilsen Neighbors Community Council. “For the past two weeks, I heard some people talking about how they found it offensive and tasteless.”

The possum mural, created by Belgian artist ROA, falls under the jurisdiction of  Ald. Danny Solis (25th). Solis spokeswoman Lauren Pacheco said the priority was restoring some of the older neighborhood murals and that the process could take more time than many people realized.

“You just can’t go to Home Depot and purchase paint,” she said of the older murals.

Both the Marcos Raya mural at 18th Street and Western Avenue and the “Faces” mural at 16th Street and South Blue Island Avenue are scheduled for a makeover over the next two years, Pacheco said. 

While the alderman’s office has received complaints about the possum mural, Pacheco said that many of those complaints come from people living outside the ward.

And, while she admits there is a little rat-posing on the possum’s part, she said that, ultimately, art is in the eye of the beholder. 

“It does resemble a rat, sure. But we do have possums in Chicago, too. We also have rats. It’s like anywhere else in the city,” Pacheco said.

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