Pilsen neighborhood blossoms with beauty, art in community garden

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's been years in the making, but every milestone is a celebration in the community.

People in Pilsen have transformed an old, rundown train yard into a colorful block in the neighborhood.

This month, artists are painting the second part of a mural in El Paseo Community Garden, located near 21st and Morgan.

The mural is called "El Abrazo."

"'El Abrazo' means the embrace. The embrace," said artist Diana Solis, one of three artists working on the project. "So it's two arms sort of embracing the community."

Solis, a Chicagoan, is working with artists Eric J. Garcia and Katia Perez Fuentes, who is also the mural project manager.

They worked together and reached out to the community, ensuring that each paint stroke and symbol represented the people of Pilsen.

"The themes are mostly immigration and labor," said Perez Fuentes. "We really surveyed the surrounding community to see what they would want."

To enforce that thinking, the coordinators held a community painting day as well.

It was a chance for neighborhood residents to help with the project, which serves as a beautiful, colorful backdrop to the garden plots and gathering space nearby.

"We're not even professional gardeners here. It's all about growing people and growing community," said Paula Acevedo, a co-coordinator for El Paseo Community Garden.

Acevedo and her husband, Antonio Acevedo, are dedicated volunteers, coordinating projects and programming for El Paseo.

Although they have volunteered for years, the Acevedos want El Paseo to be sustainable and long-term, lasting years past their tenure.

"We would like to create this to become a sustainable organization. We would like to create an income source to be able to continue all our initiatives," Paula Acevedo said.

Right now, El Paseo has the mural project, which is the second phase, community garden plots, children's programming, yoga, mediation, a beehive colony, and a flower garden.

It's a space where people come to enjoy sitting, gardening, or visiting with one another.

"It's like their backyard," said Antonio Acevedo. "From the arts to gardening, to just sitting and enjoying a cup of tea or coffee."

The artists and Acevedos say all the projects, including painting the mural, help build community.

"That the kind of thing we like to see, where people actually come out feeling like they are invested in their community," said Solis. "They are invested in creating a garden. They are invested in creating something that's not just a message, but is also beautiful."

El Paseo Community Garden has "Kids Garden Days" every Tuesday. And in the weeks ahead, the community will also have a pop-up market you can attend.

If you would like to learn more about the garden, volunteer, or attend the pop-up market, click here.
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