Grantee Project: Our Village + Our Stories + Our Dreams – A Neighborhood Coloring Book Of Stories + Mural

Artists: Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) + William Estrada
Neighborhood: Little Village
Art Type: Coloring Book + Mural
Grant Amount: $30,000

Neighborhood Coloring Book of Stories Team

Access to art in Little Village is limited and opportunities to make in public are rare. This project aims to engage artists and people currently living or working in South Lawndale as well as artists and people who have a connection to the neighborhood. The project aims to center people-powered solutions through arts based research practices that invite people in their neighborhood to begin imagining solutions to air pollution.

A series of screen printing workshops and information sessions will be held where Little Village residents, youth, and community artists will be invited to design their own coloring sheets by imagining what environmental justice looks like to them. 

Then, large-scale coloring sheets will be printed, and people in the neighborhood will be invited to provide feedback on the final design for the mural. Once the design is finalized, community members will be invited to help paste the large-scale coloring sheets onto the designated mural space to be used as a large template for community members who will collaboratively color-in the mural during the public programming period. 

The mural will celebrate campaigns people have won and will also imagine what a just and equitable environment looks like for us all. The physical coloring books will be distributed at the mural painting celebration and will also be available for digital download. The project’s multiple communal gatherings will help the project team to engage in discussions regarding the project and the possibilities of achieving environmental justice in the neighborhood.

William Estrada is an arts educator and multidisciplinary artist. His art and teaching are a collaborative discourse that critically re-examines public and private spaces with people to engage in radical imagination. 

He is currently a faculty member at the UIC School of Art and Art History and a teaching artist at Telpochcalli Elementary School. William is engaging in collaborative work with the Mobilize Creative Collaborative, Chicago ACT Collective, and Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative. His current research is focused on developing community based and culturally relevant projects that center power structures of race, economy, and cultural access in contested spaces to collectively imagine just futures. 

William is focused on generating responsive works of art in public spaces. Emphasizing community-based art education practices, Estrada amplifies the radical creativity present in marginalized spaces and the importance of honoring existing legacies, memories, familial traditions, and daily practices. Through play, social justice, and culturally responsive art education, he invites people to radically imagine and articulate their collective needs. Centering joy in our everyday lives as radical moments that permit reimagining our interconnectivity and reliance on each other.

Edith Tovar is the Senior Just Transition Organizer at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). Edith is a life-long resident of La Villita community. As a first generation college student and youngest of four, she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish-Economics with a minor in Political Science, & her Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy from the the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at UIC with a concentration in Environmental Planning and Policy.

Edith currently supports the Hell No Hilco campaign addressing environmental, labor, and public health concerns around the Exchange 55 warehouse. She is also involved with Juntos por La Villita, a coalition group that is leading the fight to save the Discount Mall on 26th Street. 

Edith is also part of regional efforts with the IL Green New Deal to demand elected officials Hold The Line on the Build Back Better bill and supporting Climate Justice Alliance to form a Midwest Chapter to address and uplift EJ campaigns across The Great Lakes.

Jocelyn Vazquez-Gomez is a Youth Just Transition Organizer at the Little Village environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). Jocelyn has been a resident of Little Village since she was 5 years old. She is a college student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) currently obtaining her Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies with minors in Public Policy and Social Justice. 

She has been part of LVEJO since 2015 when she volunteered with the organization. She has been part of the Food Justice campaign where she has facilitated a workshop connecting food injustice with mass incarceration, and has led art projects by creating banners that highlight environmental issues in the Little Village community. 

She also created an environmental justice club with the help of LVEJO in her previous high school, Social Justice High School (SoJo), along with the other schools and teachers. The club was able to open a garden on the Little Village Lawndale High School campus.

Jocelyn currently supports the Just Transition Campaign where she has helped in addressing environmental, labor, and public health concerns of Little Village residents.