Universal Alley

50th Street between Champlain and St. Lawrence Ave. Chicago

Lost Murals of Chicago/Universal Alley
Rebecca Zorach
Written By Rebecca Zorach

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.

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Lost Murals of Chicago

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