Artwork Or Gang Symbols? City Sticker Design Embroiled In Controversy
Is it an innocent tribute to Chicago’s police and firemen or a covert shout out to gang members?
That’s the current controversy embroiling the Chicago City Clerk’s office over the winning artwork in this year’s city sticker design contest just days before the 2012-2013 city sticker was scheduled to go to press.
The story began at the Detective Shaved Longcock website, a local blog devoted to local police enforcement news, which made the allegations that this year’s winning artwork, destined to be printed on 1.3 million city stickers, contains many symbols used by the Maniac Latin Disciples street gang.
The MLD is considered one of this city’s most violent and notorious gangs and was targeted in a crackdown by Chicago police this past summer after a shooting at park wounded two young girls.
The post goes on to accuse this year’s winner Herbert Pulgar, a 15-year old student at Lawrence Hall Services as an admitted member of the gang.
It was just last Thursday at City Hall when Pulgar, who in a moving and heartfelt speech at the awards ceremony for the design contest, said in a speech he owes his life to Chicago firemen who helped him when he caught himself on fire as a 4 year old. Pulgar prize for having the winning design was a $1000 savings bond.
“When we saw it we saw a great piece of art,” says City Clerk spokesperson Kristine Williams. “18,000 Chicagoans voted on which piece of artwork was best and his piece won.”
“I am concerned about the recent developments regarding the city vehicle sticker design,” says City Clerk Susana Mendoza in a statement released late today. “Every artist has a back story and often times artwork is controversial. However, the artwork on Chicago’s city stickers should not be controversial. In a design that is meant to honor the city’s first responders, I am very sensitive to this issue. I grew up in a neighborhood filled with crime and gang violence and I come from a law enforcement family. My office is investigating the facts and will look further into the allegations before I determine what action to take regarding the 2012 – 2013 city sticker design.”
Williams says the Clerk’s office was planning to sign off on final proofs on Wednesday and go to press soon after that.
“We were hoping to go to print later this week or early next week,” said Williams. “But tonight we haven’t made a decision.”
While the artwork may seem innocuous to most viewers, unfortunately, at least according to one former gang member and graffiti artist, Pulgar’s artwork does seem to contain a disturbing number of gang symbols.
“I see a lot of forks going up,” said the ex-gang member who asked to remain anonymous, in reference to the pitchfork iconography the MLD’s use. “The D’s use a lot of red and black colors and there are forks going up inside of a heart, another symbol they use. And in the photo (at the awards ceremony) he’s wearing red–the gang’s main color.”
The Clerk’s office have asked the Chicago Police Department’s gang unit for their expert opinion on the controversial artwork and hope to have enough information to reach a decision soon.
Pulgar and his family could not be reached for comment.