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At Chicago Zine Fest, which took place this past weekend at the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport and the Plumbers Union Hall in West Loop, I shared zines that included photography of graffiti in Minneapolis, a subject I’ve explored in depth here in Chicago.

The purpose of this photo essay is to explore the power of personal narratives within Chicago communities through the use of graffiti. Personal narratives give insight into the conditions people live in and the experiences that have shaped their views and opinions—and are all the more powerful when they share the stories of those often ignored and silenced. This project explores the narratives of educators, activists, organizers, artists, and people who use forms of self-expression to process, communicate, and share their stories within their communities.

Graffiti has given many people from low-income neighborhoods the opportunity to create a new path for themselves. There is often a lack of access to formal art training in these neighborhoods because of the scarcity of resources and opportunity, as well as the high cost of pursuing a career in art. Graffiti gives artists the chance to engage in self-expression and to connect with others who are working outside of the boundaries of what is formally considered “art.” Through graffiti, kids from Black and brown communities have the opportunity to express their personal stories, to expand their world beyond their neighborhood, and to share these stories with others around Chicago and beyond.

These images feature two Chicago graffiti artists and one from the Bay Area in California. Omen74 is originally from Gary, Indiana but has a long history of participating within Chicago’s writing scene. Bel2 is a writer, artist, and teacher in Chicago. Desi Mundo is the founder of the Community Rejuvenation Project (CRP) in California, a mural arts organization that works towards mural creation, renewal, and community engagement.

Desi Mundo

Omen74

Omen74

Bel2

Bel2

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