One of the worst things a muralist can do is not consider where they are painting, doing the right research for what they want to paint in a particular place. Every city, every town has a different energy, different sets of prioritues, and different values. For the muralists who painted the Wrigley Stadium, these mistakes were made. Of course, for people who don’t live in Chicago, the new Wrigley mural was a set of funny circumstances, it was a bit of an insult. Street art celebrates, it discusses, it even mocks, but it should never be wrong from a lack of research.
The Wrigley Stadium mural went up earlier this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs for 98 of those years. It is a large mural, depicting many historical moments that took place in and around that stadium. For Chicago, a town with a rich history that many of its citizens take very seriously, the mural was a testament to the town’s pride and resolve.
The main mistake came from what Cubs spokesman Julian Green described as (and I paraphrase) “incorrect labelling.” Green said in a statement that “[We] worked to source a significant number of photos from outside archives to highlight this wonderful milestone all season long. Unfortunately, the photo featuring Charles Lindbergh was incorrectly labeled in a collection of historical photos we recently acquired for our Cubs archives.” The result was a picture of Charles Lindbergh visiting Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox, not the Cubs.
The error was originally pointed out by Cubs historian Floyd Sullivan, who discovered the mistake and notified the Cubs before mentioning it in his blog. He wasn’t exactly direct, turning the mistake into a game for his readers. Posting some pictures of the mural, Sullivan promised a copy of his upcoming book to the first 5 people who correctly identified the mistake.
The result only made matters worse.
More mistakes were discovered, from misspelt names to incorrect labels. One was discovered initially because the official posted picture actually contained the mistake in the photo’s URL, triggering some people to cross-reference the image to discover the year was wrong. Gabby Hartnett’s name was missing the last ’t’ too, a simple but glaring error after fans started combing over the mural with a fine tooth comb. Other errors included calling Franlkin Roosevelt “President” despite the photo referenced being from before he was elected and a mitt depicting a patch that couldn’t have existed when and where they claimed the image was from.
Thankfully, officials have recognized these mistakes and fixed them, much to the relief of Cubs fans and baseball history fans across the globe. Repairs were made within just a few weeks of Sullivan’s article.
There are a couple of lessons we can learn from the “Wrigley Field gaffes,” as the local media called them. Mostly, research is a street artist’s best friend. Many murals are commemorative, and that requires a certain amount of real dedication and respect for the people who would want the commemoration. The classic “know your audience.” The murals themselves are brilliant and skillfully made, hopefully the quick fixes will help fans enjoy Wrigley Stadium’s newest additions for a long time.