A plaque in memory of Pilsen artist Francisco Mendoza was placed at the entrance to Orozco Community Academy (1940 W. 18th St.) on September 16. Mendoza taught art for 25 years and was awarded an Oppenheimer Family Foundation OPPY Award for “excellence in teaching” in 2003. He led the painting of the murals at the 18th Street CTA station in Pilsen and in 2000 designed 17 mosaics for Orozco, pro bono, that remain to this day. A “tenureship mixup” at Chicago Public Schools left Mendoza unemployed just months after a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. However, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Oppenheimer family rallied the community to raise more than $40,000 for his care. Mendoza died in March 2012 at age 53.
Photo: Unveiling a plaque at Orozco School in honor of Mendoza. From left, Susan Oppenheimer; Nancy Paulette, principal of Orozco School; James Larralde, Mendoza’s nephew and caretaker in his last illness; Teresa Fraga and artist David Fraga a former student of Mendoza who did the mosaics around the plaque; Ted Oppenheimer; Juanita Mendoza, Francisco’s sister and caretaker in his last illness; Carlos Tortolero, President of the National Museum of Mexican Art and teacher of Francisco who helped him get his first commissions, Peter Morrison and Ed Pino, Francisco’s long time Orozco colleagues.
By Austin Sanchez, StreetWise Editorial Intern