Tenderloin Activists Reject Gay History Mural

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011  |  Updated 11:30 AM PDT
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Tenderloin Activists Reject Gay History Mural

Parade goers enjoy the Chicago's 2008 gay pride parade.

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A proposed mural on Polk Street has drawn so much fire it may never be painted.

It's hard to nail down an exact explanation for the backlash. At a community meeting last month, attendees objected to the quality of the art, as well as to content that alluded to the neighborhood's gay history.

But the artists point out that that's exactly what they were hired to depict, according to the BAR. The Lower Polk Neighborhood Association hired the artists to paint a gay history mural, and that's just what they produced.

The problem, as some residents see it, is that Polk's gay history is fraught with conflict. For decades, the neighborhood has been a haven for disadvantaged LGBTs, but things were much worse in the 60s and 70s. Incidents of police harassment and brutality are well-documented.

Even though things have improved since then, some folks want don't want to acknowledge that history, saying that it's simply too negative.

Other objectors claimed that the mural belonged in the Castro, not on Polk Street. But prior to the 1970s, the Tenderloin was the city's gay epicenter.

Another proposed mural, which included a male hustler, met a similar response.

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