WASHINGTON (CBS) — The 15-year-old Chicago boy whose art was selected to be on city vehicle stickers – until allegations surfaced that it contained gang symbols – is now competing in the Congressional Art Competition, after he impressed U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Herbie Pulgar won the city’s vehicle sticker contest this year, but City Clerk Susanna Mendoza pulled his winning design after a controversy erupted over complaints the drawing contained gang symbols.
Pulgar has denied that his drawing contained gang symbols, and said he was only trying to honor the city’s first responders, who saved his life when he was burned at age 4.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Gutierrez brought Pulgar and his mother to Washington D.C. this week. They had dinner on Tuesday and toured the White House on Wednesday.
“We looked for [President] Barack Obama, we didn’t find him,” Gutierrez said. “We couldn’t find him at the White House. We knew he was somewhere in there.”
Gutierrez said he’s proud of Pulgar, because he has such a positive attitude, even after what happened with the city sticker contest.
“Such a great heart. He’s not resentful, he’s happy,” Gutierrez said.
Now Pulgar’s artwork for the sticker contest hangs in the U.S. Capitol. Gutierrez selected Pulgar’s artwork to represent his Congressional district in the annual Congressional Art Competition.
“Whoever doubted me, have a good life, and I’m happy for them,” Pulgar said. “But I’m also happy for myself, and what I accomplished.”
Pulgar’s design features an image of the Chicago skyline and flag inside a heart, with four hands reaching up toward symbols of Chicago police officers, firefighters and paramedics.
A number of police blogs claimed the hands on the drawing were flashing gang signs and that other elements, including the heart, were symbols of the Maniac Latin Disciples street gang.
But Pulgar said the drawing was inspired by the work of first responders who saved his life when he was burned at the age of 4.
His teacher has also shown that the hands on Pulgar’s drawing are nearly identical to hands in drawings inside an art book she gave him to help come up with a design for the sticker contest.
Another student’s design was chosen to replace Pulgar’s, but that girl asked that her design not be used either after that decision generated a controversy of its own. Eventually, the city came up with its own design for this year’s stickers.