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In 1999 artist Robert Valadez was commissioned to paint the Adelante mural in Sterling, IL. Two decades later, the artist is returning to Sterling to restore his work of art to fill the street with color once again.

Valadez’s murals can be seen all over the Midwest and Chicago, where his grandfather lived many years ago and set down roots. The artist proudly honors his Mexican heritage through his artwork, which he’s been passionate about since he was a little boy.

“In a way it picks you,” Valadez explained about his profession. “The Universe tells you to be an artist.”

Valadez has enjoyed doing what he loves for 40 years. He does paintings of all sizes and of course, murals. Valadez started painting murals with older artists, learning the craft from their experience. He did his first mural in Chicago. He has completed artwork for businesses and religious institutions and often has requests from the Catholic church. Valadez also exhibits his pieces at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, an area rich with Mexican history.

It was through the National Museum of Mexican Art that organizers from Sterling, IL found Valadez in 1999 and invited him to do the Adelante mural. It is the biggest mural Valadez has completed to date and was his first big project. The mural depicts the early Mexican-American settlers to the Sauk Valley area and highlights various scenes from the past, including some important moments in history that contributed to the creation of a wonderful community in Sterling, IL.

“When they hired me, I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I said I gotta do it,” said Valadez. 

While challenging, the project was fun and exciting. Valadez remembers that in 1999 the mural was big news in Sterling. Local media often interviewed the artist about his work.

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“I was very honored,” Valadez said. “Adelante means a lot to me, as it was the beginning of my career as a large-scale muralist. I had already done other murals before Adelante, but never at that scale.” he added.

Artist Robert Valadez in front of the Adelante mural in progress in 1999.
Photo courtesy of the artist

Over two decades later, Robert Valadez will be returning to Sterling to restore his original work to its vibrant, colorful glory.

“Everything is there,” Valdez said about the condition of the mural today. “It’s faded but it’s all there.”

The artist is collaborating with Bill Campillo, an artist who worked on the mural with him in 1999, and Ambrose Talamantes and Angelina Del Valle, two young female artists that have assisted Valadez in some current projects in Chicago.

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Valadez is excited and honored to be called back to restore his original mural.

“I am glad they asked me to come back,” he said. “They could have done it without me, but they asked me.”

The restoration is planned to begin on August 16, 2022. Sterling Main Street, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring Sterling’s downtown area and connecting residents with businesses and local government is leading the effort behind Adelante’s restoration. They recently received a pledge to match donations of up to $10,000 for the project. There is still time to donate and anyone wishing to do so can visit https://tinyurl.com/22t6vva9 to donate.

Those interested in learning more about the restoration efforts or prefer to donate in person can contact the Sterling Main Street office at 15 East 3rd Street or stop at their booth at the Thursday Evening Pop Up Market in Dale Park.

Follow Robert Valadez on Facebook The Art of Robert Valadez to see samples of his vivid and inspiring artwork.

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