PILSEN — A Ukrainian Village art collective claims the 25th Ward owes it $16,000 for costs associated with Pilsen mural projects over the last year.
Pawn Works — a gallery and art collective at 2846 W. North Ave. — was initially contracted for $30,000 several years ago to bring in national and international mural artists to work on "Art in Public Places," the ward's 2012 public art initiative.
But according to Pawn Works co-director Nick Marzullo, the ward still owes his group $16,000 in unpaid reimbursement fees for artist travel, lodging and other expenses.
Chloe Riley says the artists used their own money for the murals, assuming they would be reimbursed quickly.
"This is not some ridiculous payment owed to us. It's an amount that is to be a reimbursement for work created to improve the neighborhood," Marzullo said via email. "We are not awaiting payment, but a REIMBURSEMENT for money down out of pocket, all while they continue to accept accolades and notoriety for our work.
"It's tough. We love the project so much, and for it to go in this direction has been killing us as a small business in the city focused on community arts efforts."
According to 25th Ward spokeswoman Lauren Pacheco, the Art in Public Places project director has maintained contact with Marzullo and has met in person with the 25th Ward chief of staff.
"Our office has worked closely with City of Chicago departments and is confident that this will be resolved," she said via email.
Pacheco is also the co-founder of Chicago Urban Art Society, one of several other organizations that had taken part in the Art in Public Places project.
Marzullo said Pawn Works was initially hired to work on two walls along 16th Street in August 2012 for $2,000. After that work was completed, the 25th Ward came back to the group at the beginning of 2013 with a contract for $30,000 to bring in muralists who would paint walls along 16th Street east of Blue Island Avenue.
Solis has contributed funding toward 29 of the 33 murals created to date, and "personally funds $15,000 to produce new murals," according to the 25th Ward's site. Those murals include work by Pilsen artists Diana Solis, Oscar Romero and the late Brooks Blair Golden in addition to work by international artists The Yok and Sheryo and Roa, among others.
Marzullo, who still continues to bring in muralists for the 25th Ward, said he ultimately just wants the money owed to his group.
"We feel disrespected and forgotten by the 25th Ward," he said. "No one ever called me. They just kind of waited until I had enough. I just felt like, if I were to disappear or something, then this money would never come."
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