Cooper Dual Language Academy Murals (Formerly Orozco Community School), 1991
Francisco Mendoza and Noe Milan
1624 West 19th Street
The school building facade is transformed with 2,100 square feet of mural panels. Led by award-winning art teacher Francisco Mendoza (1958-2012), who was educated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, his students worked to hand-set Venetian glass tiles.
The panels, some as large as 7 by 27 feet, showcase a diverse range of prominent Mexicans, from famed muralist Diego Rivera to farmworker advocate Dolores Huerta. Viewers who look closely at the panel of a Latino family will see a small image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, hidden on a bookshelf. Mendoza snuck it in after a controversy arose with school board officials stating a proposed larger panel showing the saint's image violated the constitutional separation between church and state. Mendoza, well known to Pilsen residents for work on the Blue Line's 18th Street "L" station, designed the mosaic for a cost of $250,000.
In a 2001 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Carlos Tortolero, executive director of the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum at Harrison Park, said the Orozco murals have emerged as a major city attraction. "Because of its location and its size, this is going to be the most prominent in Pilsen, without a doubt."