SOUTH SHORE — A vast mural at 75th and Coles Avenue was destroyed last week, just days before the artist was to return to paint a sister work across the street.
The mural, which read “May Peace Prevail” above a community garden in South Shore, came down Tuesday in what shocked gardeners initially thought was an act of vandalism.
“I’ve lost everything in Chicago,” said Desi Mundo, who has painted public art on the South Side for 20 years and now lives in Oakland, California.
When gardeners left their plots on May 2, the South Shore mural still prominently featured an elephant’s head that transformed into butterfly wings at its ears. When they returned Tuesday they found large holes smashed in the painting from a rock. The next day, the building owner stripped the stucco from the brick wall, and with it Mundo’s mural.
“The photos I saw were of a couple holes, and I didn’t understand why people were freaking out, now everything is gone,” said Mundo, who painted the mural last summer.
He said he had planned to feature the mural in a retrospective of his work at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Mundo’s presentation will mark the start of a two-week residency at the art center and a return to the neighborhood where he learned to paint.
While in high school, Mundo helped create a public art wall in the alley behind 1301 E. 53rd St., which was torn down in March to make way for the Vue53 residential and retail development. The two murals on the Metra underpasses at 47th and 56th streets that Mundo fought to get permission to paint in 1998 are also gone, long since painted over.
Mundo said countless other murals he's painted in Hyde Park, South Shore and other South Side neighborhoods have been painted over, whitewashed or destroyed.
He said he is excited to come home and to the Hyde Park Art Center to show off the 140 murals he’s helped create over the last four years since moving to Oakland.
During his residency at the art center, Mundo plans to paint a mural across the street from the South Shore garden that originally was intended to be a companion piece for the mural that was destroyed.
The new mural will feature a mother and child under an apple tree with storm clouds forming around them, he said.
“The thunderstorm is going to form into a hand holding a vase, which pours out a river that flows back to the mother and child,” Mundo said.
He said he would also like to redo the destroyed mural.
“I was never satisfied with that mural; I actually had a more complete vision for the wall that never got done,” Mundo said. “I was actually hoping to slap a couple things up while I was working across the street.”
Building owner George Polymenakos said he’s happy to have Mundo redo the mural and is a fan of his work.
The planned second mural by Mundo will also be on one of Polymenakos’ buildings on 75th Street.
Polymenakos said he was sorry to see the mural go, but the stucco had to come down because it was damaged beyond repair over the winter by a leak in the roof.
“I knew someday it would happen — it’s stucco — but I didn’t think it would be that soon,” Polymenakos said.
Mary Steenson, a founder of the community garden, said the group is looking for help to get both of Mundo’s murals complete.
“We absolutely need money,” Steenson said. “Now, it’s more important than ever to get that mural up.”
She said people interested in supporting the mural project can contact the Planning Coalition, theplanningcoalition.org.