Rebecca Zorach teaches and writes on early modern European art (15th-17th century), contemporary activist art, and art of the 1960s and 1970s at Northwestern University. Particular interests include print media, feminist and queer theory, theory of representation, and the multiple intersections of art and politics.
On Sunday afternoons starting in the 1950s, in a garage off an alley near Washington Park, DJs spun records and people gathered to dance. Over several summers, muralist Mitchell Caton and poet-muralist C. Siddha Webber worked. They first created a simpler abstract mural on the east side of the alley.
Next, they painted a more complex and colorful one to the west. Caton emphasized the negative: criminal activity he saw in the neighborhood. He called the mural “Rip-Off Alley.”
Webber painted a poem that accentuated the positive, and offered a competing title, “Universal Alley.” Eventually, Universal Alley stuck.
Note: This mural was painted in 1970, and then in 1974 in the alley off 50th Street between Champlain and St. Lawrence Avenues.