Stunning Street Art in Pilsen, Chicago

Erik Burke Pilsen Chicago

Artist: Erik Burke (2012) – 918 W. 16th Street

In the neighborhood of Pilsen, art rules the streets.

As a huge fan of street art, I made it a point to find street art during my trip to Chicago. In my quest to find murals, I headed to the neighborhood of Pilsen, which has a long history with street art dating back to the 1960’s.

Unlike many street art murals around the world, the story of the majority of Pilsen’s murals is quite unique.

Funded by the Chicago Urban Art Society and Alderman Danny Solis, both local and international street artists were invited and given the freedom to start creating new murals legally under the 2012 initiative ‘Art in Public Places‘. The program was an effort to expand Chicago’s street art scene and to combat the local gang-affiliated graffiti.

Personally, I liked that the street art seemed to fall into two different and distinct categories: traditional Mexican-themed art and modern art.

Traditional Mexican-Themed Art

The Casa Aztlán Mural (original pictured above), was created in 1977 by artist Ray Patlan and was recreated by him in 2017.

The original mural paid homage to famous Mexicans such as Frida Khalo, Emiliano Zapata, Subcomandante Marcos, and César Chávez.

This mural can be found at 1831 S. Racine Avenue.

This mural, by tattoo artist Santos “Vampiro” Ramirez, depicts the famous Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos).

This piece can be found on 16th Street between S. Wood and S. Paulina Streets.

Erik Burke Pilsen

This work by artist Erik Burke (2012) is a portrait that features a young Pilsen Chicana girl.

This mural can be found near the intersection of W. 16th and S. Peoria Streets.

Modern Art

Created by the late Brooks Blair Golden, this piece of art called The Owl was created due to the artist’s obsession with birds. The owl also held special significance to Golden as the symbolism of this piece tied into his Native American roots.

The Owl can be found near the intersection of W. 16th and S. Paulina streets.

This piece by Chicago artist Hebru Brantley depicts Flyboy, one of the artists’ iconic characters.

Flyboy can be found on W. 16th between S.Loomis and SLaflin. 

ROA Pilsen Chicago

This controversial piece of art featuring a possum with his innards on display was created by famed Belgian street artist ROA.

ROA has been known for depicting life-like animals in his street art, and this work, although more graphic than usual, is no exception. He uses broad black and white brush strokes to create this realistic piece of work that is somewhat of an optical illusion when viewed from another angle.

This mural can be found on 16th Street near Laflin Street.

Do you like street art? Who are your favorite artists or where have you seen the best displays of art?

By |2018-07-12T12:15:15+00:00July 7th, 2014|Illinois, Street Art|18 Comments


  1. Lindsay @ Frugal Frolicker Jul 7, 2014 at 10:21 am - Reply

    LOVE THIS!! I totally missed most of these while I was frolicking around Pilsen, but there’s a bunch of good art all along the train tracks on 16th St. Awesome captures here! 🙂

    • Chanel Jul 7, 2014 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Thanks Lindsay! I have got to check out the tracks the next time around 🙂

  2. Kevin @ Guess This City Jul 7, 2014 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Hey really awesome post. I love street art and graffiti and Chicago definitely has some really cool stuff.

    I was just in Reykjavik, Iceland and took some photos of all the awesome Graffiti.

    • Chanel Jul 7, 2014 at 10:53 am - Reply

      Yes, I am a huge fan too! I will definitely be checking out your post. I totally missed the street art when I was in Reykjavik last summer 🙁

  3. Jenny @ A Thing For Wor(l)ds Jul 7, 2014 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Great photos!! I saw a few of those in Pilsen, though your pics turned out more profesh 🙂 I’ve started to focus more and more on finding great street art in my traveling; maybe ever since I hit up the East Side Gallery in Berlin I’ve been inspired.

    • Chanel Jul 7, 2014 at 4:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jenny! I love street art so I always seek it out 🙂 It can be quite interesting. Can’t wait to see what you discover during your travels!

  4. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy Jul 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Pilsen is probably my favorite place in the U.S. for street art. I haven’t seen all of these, so I’ll have to go back again soon. Props for looking up all the artists’ names!

    • Chanel Jul 7, 2014 at 6:58 pm - Reply

      Yes, there is so much there, and I even missed a lot too!

      The most challenging part of these posts is finding the names because they are never all in one place (and sometimes I can’t find them at all!) Thanks for coming by 🙂

  5. Muza-chan Jul 7, 2014 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Cool art 🙂

  6. Rajesh Jul 8, 2014 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    Amazing artwork. Really talented people.

  7. Rachel@safari254 Jul 9, 2014 at 2:35 am - Reply

    Lovely murals, love the dancing ladies by Alejandro Medina. Innovative way to combat the local gang-affiliated graffiti.

    • Chanel Jul 9, 2014 at 10:08 pm - Reply

      Thank you Rachel! I also think it was a great project that was started in the community! 😀

  8. Marisol@TravelingSolemates Jul 12, 2014 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Hi Chanel, lovely post. These street arts are spectacular and I like the story behind them. I’m a fan of street arts myself and so far are the ones in the streets of Melbourne.

    • Chanel Jul 13, 2014 at 1:45 am - Reply

      Thank you! I love street art so much, it is so awesome! I hope to see the art in Melbourne one day!

  9. Kristin Jul 23, 2014 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    These are seriously dramatic! I love your owl cover photo.

    • Chanel Jul 26, 2014 at 3:46 am - Reply

      I love the owl too and its very intense stare 😀

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