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Mural Artists
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Roberto Valadez of the Pilsen neighborhood, Chicago, headed the group of artists who painted "Adelante."  Working with a Latino committee and Sterling's Mural Society, the artists made visible a century of history and change for Mexican-Americans and other Latinos of the city.  Below are photos of Roberto, Jesus, Santiago, Bill and their volunteers at work on the mural.  Follow their progress from early sketches and outlines through the five finished panels.... Click on small images to enlarge them.


Sketches & Outline Charcoal & pastel sketches of the five panels outlined the basic plan for the mural's design.  Community members assisted the artists by finding historical photos in collections of the Gazette newspaper and Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society.  Family pictures provided the artists with the faces of "real people" in Sterling history:  children posing thirty years ago; young men killed in battle during World War II; early settlers and recent immigrants, workers on farms and factories, community leaders, teachers, entrepreneurs.  Bill Campillo (right), principal of Acorn High School in Chicago, completes the portrait of Janet Silguero.  [A "photo raffle" was held as a fund-raiser:  the winners had their photographs turned into portraits on one of the five panels].

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Artists at Work Week by week, the Chicago artists added color and details as they painted local history on the western wall of the Napa Auto Parts store in the center of town.  Jesus Gonzalez and Bill Campillo (left) add depth to the farm scene.  Beyond the fields are railroad boxcars which agricultural and factory workers used for temporary housing.  Below, Mauricio Vazquez touches up the Sauk Valley Community College sign, Javier González paints the "Adelante" mural title, visitors check on the artists' progress, and the portraits of Juan González and Al Silva are brought to life from family photographs.  Additional painting assistance was provided by Luis Montenegro and local community youth.

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Adding Historical Details The artists painted a "Virgen de Guadalupe" panel first to oversee the expanding mural:  a symbol of faith for generations of Mexican immigrants and the Latino townspeople of Sterling. The second panel depicts the economic contribution of immigrants and settlers to Sterling's economy, including NorthWestern Steel ("The Mill"), with one of the earliest electric steel furnaces built in 1937.  Mill workers were unionized in 1936, and today, a good number of Mexican American elders receive pensions for their decades of work at NorthWestern Steel (as much as 50 years of service!).  Agricultural labor in maize, cucumbers and other regional crops, as well as ongoing contributions of recent immigrants in the local service sector, complete this panel dedicated to Latino workers.  The central panel depicts family reunions for returning Chicano veterans of World War II.  The gravestones serve as a memorial to the young men of Sterling who never returned.  The third "Fiesta" panel celebrates a September tradition (Mexican Independence Day) begun in the 1940s, as well as the Gonzalez family market and cafe, one of the earliest community businesses, and details of folklórico dancers.  

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