Winning City Sticker Design Yanked, But not Without Pain
Posted on February 9, 2012 by Be Chicagood
UPDATE: It appears now the runner up, Caitlin Henehan whose design elevated to the 1st place after the City sticker fiasco has pulled her design because of “unwanted media and public scrutiny and criticism of her artwork that soon followed,”. Now the city is forced to design the sticker in house. The city stickers are still scheduled to be distributed on time.
In a city wide art contest aimed at highlighting children’s artistic abilities to be placed on the City stickers, you would expect happiness and hope and inspirations. But at the end of the day it delivered a crushing blow to one troubled teen’s spirits. And nobody came out a winner.
Chicago City Clerk, Susanna Mendoza has decided to pull the winning design that brought so much attention and controversy after a popular police blog raised questions in regards to gang signs being included in the drawing. However the decision did not come easily and with a heavy heart.
The teen’s artwork, which showed hands reaching from a heart toward symbols of Chicago police, firefighters and paramedics, was selected from among more than 200 entries by high school students to appear on more than 1 million 2012-2013 city vehicle stickers. But after the announcement, the police blog pointed out suspicious circumstances surrounding the poses of the hands that bore resemblance to a Chicago land gang sign. After consulting with gang experts, City Clerk Mendoza made the decision to pull the drawing and as a result Caitlin Henehan’s — the Resurrection High School senior design become the new winner.
The boy in a sobbing interview told reporters that the officials were wrong about the drawing.
“I don’t think that’s fair. I tried the best I could,” the boy told WGN-TV reporter Dan Ponce, crying throughout the interview as he sat on a couch in his home with his mother. “That art design has nothing to do with no gangs. Nothing. No violence, no nothing.
The prize of $1000 bond had originally been given to the boy but with a new winner announced, the prize money had to be rewarded to Caitlin. However out of good gesture, Mendoza said she will personally give the boy the prize money out of her own pocket.
“I feel terrible about what he’s going through and the media storm he’s had to deal with,” Mendoza said in her statement. “While he has admittedly had problems in his youth, I do believe that he is trying to turn his life around. That is why I am going to give him a $1000 savings bond to use for his education coming from me personally. It will not be at taxpayer expense.”
“…I believe that the student who provided the original design should also be recognized for his talent and participation in the contest. I want to encourage him to pursue a degree where he can continue to develop his skills,” Mendoza said.
Last week, Mendoza hailed the boy as a “rock star” who would see his life positively affected by winning the design contest. The boy was aspiring to pursue his creativity and be an architect because he wanted to leave a mark in the city. He also had recalled a firefighter as his hero after the firefighter had saved his life when he was 4 and suffered a serious burn.
”I’m really happy because nobody really recognized me, and I wanted attention, and now I’ve got that,” he said to applause and laughter from other contest participants.
The newly announced winner was shocked. “I thought his design was really good,” said Henehan, who called it “unbelievable” that she’s now the winner. “I feel really badly for him.”
Mendoza reached out to the boy to offer a relationship and a hand if the boy needed to talk about the issue.
“I hope that I can somehow maybe reach this kid, just through a different medium than the city sticker at this point,” she said.
Whether the teen had deliberately included gang signs in his designs or not, we can agree on this: after what possibly could have been a life altering experience of motivation and hope for a troubled teen in Chicago, has now left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.
Do you agree with the city’s decision? How should it have been handled?