Latinx artist transforms empty building walls into beautiful murals

CICERO, Illinois – Our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month continues with a look at a modern-day Picasso.

Mauricio Ramirez creates work on a scale that few artists are capable of. His vision always involves an amazing mix of colors and geometric shapes, and in many cases community involvement plays a key role in beautifying neighborhoods across the country.

Ramirez is good at seeing the big picture — literally. His murals transform the sides of buildings across the country, turning brick and concrete into canvas. And for him, the bigger the screen, the better.

“A lot of people think the bigger you get, the harder it gets,” he said. “It’s easier for me because you can see each section in detail as you get closer to the mural.”

Ramirez grew up in Berwyn and Cicero. At 33, he has quickly become one of Chicago’s most successful Latin American muralists.

A fine example of his work can be seen at the Cristo Rey Jesuit School in Pilsen – a mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe, 35 feet high and about 20 feet wide.

“I think it’s important to kind of mix these styles to pay homage to the traditional image while also focusing on the future,” he said.

He has made murals across the country. One called Frontline Heroes was completed in Milwaukee in 2020. Also in Milwaukee is the city’s biggest sports star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. He has made murals in Portland, Ventura, California and one entitled “Altogether” in the state of Vermont.

In his home studio in Cicero, Ramirez is working on a canvas that will be one of five panels of a larger piece. He says a lot of planning goes into his work to accommodate the space accurately.

“Before I go and paint something on the wall or canvases, I already have it planned in my head, focus on the tightness of the work,” he said.

In many cases, he also lets people from the local community come out and help spray paint, assigning different sections of the mural to people of all ages.

“Yeah, we have people ranging in age from four to five years old through to seniors? And they see your vision and get inspired? it’s not every day you can legally throw some paint on the wall and call it your own,” he said.

He says he draws strength from the work ethic of the Latino community.

“I’m from Mexico and I’m proud that we have one of the toughest work ethics, you look at the workforce, construction sites. it shows how hard we are willing to work for our families,” Ramirez said.

During the winter months he will be working on new designs and researching new public art projects to apply for. He says he hopes to spend the rest of his life designing murals.

“You know it’s difficult to find a place where you can actually paint a mural, so hopefully these things will open doors for future generations. Latinx artist transforms empty building walls into beautiful murals

Grace Reader

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