Jeff Huebner’s proposed essay has evolved into a book, tentatively to be published by Northwestern University Press, about William Walker’s extensive mural production. Huebner focuses mostly on Walker’s work in Chicago from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, a significant cultural legacy that has nearly vanished from city neighborhoods and collective memory. Spurred by the civil rights struggle and the social upheavals of the 1960s, African Americans’ disenfranchisement from the local art establishment, and the onset of the Black Power/Black Arts movements, 1967’s Wall of Respect—an outdoor mural depicting fifty black heroes—and other street murals in Chicago by Walker and collaborating artists helped launch a revolution in audience-involved, participatory art making. In 1971, Walker (1927–2011) cofounded the Chicago Mural Group (now Chicago Public Art Group), the nation’s oldest community public art organization. The book will provide valuable material on Walker’s art and life, from a shantytown in Birmingham in the 1930s to the streets of Chicago’s South Side, and discuss his relevance to contemporary, community, and mural art.
Jeff Huebner is a Michigan native who has been a Chicago-based art journalist, freelance writer, critic, and author for twenty-five years. As both a staff reporter and independent writer and critic, he has written extensively on visual art—including public art, sculpture, and mural art—for dozens of publications. He has also taught public art courses for Chicago City Colleges. He has been researching, documenting, and writing about contemporary community-based and African American murals and public art in the Chicago area since the 1980s, and has written or co-written several books on the topic.