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Mural Registry To Document, Preserve Chicago Artwork

(CBS) -- Sometimes, mistakenly, the city of Chicago has painted over beloved public art that has come to define certain neighborhoods.

To guard against that the city has created a new mural registry.

Take A Tour Of Chicago's Murals

At the corner of 31st and Central Park in Little Village sits the "Temple of Bloom."

Artist Gloria Talamantes remembered painting the mural's bright colors with a group of teens three years ago. It's one of the estimated thousands of public art murals that grace the city's walls and walkways in just about every neighborhood.

"It changes the way you feel about your neighborhood, the way you feel about yourself when you're walking. It just has an overall beautiful feeling," Talamantes said.

Vivian Maier Mural
(Credit: Yolanda Perdomo/CBS)

Unfortunately the city's teams of graffiti blasters, charged to remove vandalism and tagging, have sometimes mistakenly painted over beloved murals,

"We had three tragic incidents last year where murals were wiped out," said Mark Kelly, Commisioner For Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

"Es Tiempo de Recordar," a 26-year-old mural in Hermosa by Sandra Antongiorgi, Marcus Akinlana and Rolf Mueller, is one example form last summer. So was a commissioned work near a Brown Line stop in Lakeview

As an artist, Talamantes relates.

"It's just really painful. It's also kind of violent to see your work whitewashed," Talamantes said. "It's like you're erasing somebody's voice."

"We don't want that to happen again," added Kelly, who said he is a big believer in public art.

"I want more of it. We need to expand public art in every neighborhood of this city," noted Kelly. "My hope is that almost every mural in the city becomes registered."

"Greetings From Chicago"
(Credit: Yolanda Perdomo/CBS)

Under his watch, Chicago has now come up with a mural registry, where artists and community groups can officially list these works of art. Each is entered into a data base that graffiti crews can check before taking action.

They're marked in the corner with an official city emblem too.

The general public can also search the database, by zip code or ward, and map out a course to take in the murals in person. After painful mistakes the move has taken some artists by surprise.

"Some are a little confused, like 'the city is going to protect us?'" said Kelly.

"Historically speaking, I think murals tell time and they tell stories," Talamantes said.

With the new registry, Talamantes hopes the city's murals will have a better chance of standing the test of time.

"Picture Stories From American History"
(Credit: Yolanda Perdomo/CBS)

To date, only 150 murals have been entered into the database, but the city is encouraging more artists and communities register their works of art.

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