In Plain Site | Mixed Media

Ruby Chacón is Both Celebrated and Painted Over

Ruby Chacón’s mural at the Jackson/Euclid TRAX station, 820 W. North Temple

In October, Salt Lake City’s Public Art Program commissioned local arts and culture writer Bianca Velázquez to write on the “art, legacy, and impact of Ruby Chacón in Salt Lake City’s public art scene.” The city has commissioned Chacón to create several murals, including her Art-in-Transit commission for the Jackson/Euclid TRAX station on North Temple. The article, which was announced under the heading “Brown Faces in Public Art Spaces” was commissioned to commemorate Latine Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15).

Read the article in English herePara leer este artículo en español, haz click aquí.

Almost concurrently, the artist announced on her Instagram page that one of her most iconic murals in the city had been painted over. The Catholic Community Services mural (745 East 300 South) was commissioned by Zions Bank in 2007 and was a multicultural celebration of hope. Chacón received no notice it would be painted over. She only learned about it from her sister. “This hit me in the gut because it was painted on panels and was a movable mural. I cannot comprehend this kind of disrespect,” Chacón wrote on her post.

She also writes, “I’m trying to figure out a plan of action.” This incident — and there have probably been and there will most certainly be others — raises a thorny issue regarding all the murals going up in municipalities around Utah. While a mural might be paid for by a business or municipality, federal laws still grant artists certain “moral rights” over their works, rights which under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 prevent the destruction of an artwork regardless of ownership.

In 2013, Chacón was honored by Artists of Utah as one of Utah’s Most Influential Artists. You can read the profile by Sue Martin here, and a 2002 profile on the artist here.

You can discover more public art in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas at our Art Lake City map.

Categories: In Plain Site | Mixed Media

1 reply »

  1. Ruby Chacón knows whereof she speaks (no surprise there). In Washington State’s capitol, there is a painting, an image familiar to those who know The Labors of Hercules, that has been covered over for decades. It offended some members of the government who are ignorant of the Classics and think they know a dirty picture when they see one. But it remains under a curtain, because protected by the artist’s rights. Other, better known examples from the 1930, WPA-era of public art are similarly censored, some removed and some variously erased, all well recorded. Some of these stories are still in the news today. And of course, the grand-daddy of them all, the Rockefeller Murals of Diego Rivera, were partially erased and replaced, setting much of the legal repercussions into action. Various efforts have been and are still being made to somehow restore them. Chacón, meanwhile, continues to support and facilitate access to art for pilgrims such as I, who come seeking her help in tracking down the many active artists, students, and others she encourages and supports. Thanks in no small part to her, Salt Lake has one of the most vibrant and continuous Latin arts movements outside LA, which of course is known locally as the third largest city in Mexico.

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