Art on theMART Summer Program

Monday, May 13 – Sep 29, 2019

222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654

theMART, with the City of Chicago, features a full summer program in 2019 for Art on theMART, the largest permanent digital art projection in the world. 

Projections begin approximately 15 minutes after sunset. Programming will run 7 days/week from May 13 - September 29, 2019

Art on theMART’s summer program will feature a bespoke work commissioned by NeoCon, the leading event for the commercial interiors industry, which takes place at theMART each June. This year the event is marked in celebration of its 51st edition. Conceived by artist and director, Rick Valicenti, and 2012 Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, CONFLUENCE is a both a work of poetry and visual animation, responding back and forth with one another. Inspired by the location of theMART at the confluence of the Chicago River’s three branches, this expressive installation explores the themes of passage and transformation through a series of nine moving Haiku exchanges. CONFLUENCE will launch Sunday, June 9, at 9pm to welcome more than 50,000 design professionals to the City of Chicago and kick off NeoCon’s 3-day event of design launches and programming.

On June 13, Art on theMART will debut a collaboration between scenic designer John Musial and Lucky Plush Artistic Director Julia Rhoads. The work, titled Limelight Parade, utilizes fragmented choreography and script from Julia Rhoads' work with Lucky Plush, a Chicago-based dance and theater ensemble, reimagined within John Musial's layered and evocative projection design. The source material draws from Lucky Plush's Rooming House, in which varied interpretations of personal and mythic storytelling leads down a rabbit hole into the lives of everyday people who do extraordinary things.

“This project brings a surprising intimacy and humanity to the grand stage of theMART’s river-façade, truly reflecting the adventurous and collaborative spirit of Chicago theater,” Julia Rhoads stated.

John Boesche will also present new acts to 7 soliloquies, a multi-part projection piece that premiered March 13, highlighting seven significant Chicago theater artists in brief solo performances. In addition to performers, the work features prominent composers, sound and scenic designers, puppeteers and visual artists, including Sandra Delgado, Blair Thomas, Mike Nussbaum and more.

The approximately five minute program will loop for two hours each night, beginning approximately 15 minutes after sunset.

Art on theMART 2019 program selections were confirmed by an esteemed Curatorial Advisory Board comprised of several of the city’s most distinguished arts and culture leaders. In addition to Art on theMART Executive Director Cynthia Noble, Curatorial Advisory Board members include Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Assistant Curator Grace Deveney, Art Institute of Chicago Assistant Curator Robyn Farrell, EXPO CHICAGO President/Director Tony Karman, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Director of Public Art Lydia Ross, artist Edra Soto and artist Amanda Williams.  

About the Artists

Thirst Studio

Thirst is a collective internationally known for blurring the boundary between art and design. The studio’s work is bold, explosive, episodic, and constantly evolving into new contexts and mediums, often experimenting at the fringe of communication. Rick Valicenti founded the collective in 1988 to create “art with function,” adding John Pobojewski and Bud Rodecker as partners in 2017.  

Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States (2012-2014). She is the author of five collections of poetry, including Native Guard for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2017 she received the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities. At Northwestern University she is Board of Trustees Professor of English.

John Musial

John Musial is a Chicago-based theater maker. He has worked with Chicago Children’s Theatre, About Face Theatre, American Theatre Company and many more. Musial received a Jeff Award for the projection design of Lookingglass Theatre’s production of “Nelson Algren For Keeps and a Single Day” and was nominated for a Regional Theatre Tony Award for redirecting and editing “Nelson Algren...” for television with WTTW Channel 11. Musial holds a master’s degree in Architecture from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). 

Julia Rhoads

Julia Rhoads is the founding Artistic Director of Lucky Plush Productions, a MacArthur Award-winning ensemble recognized for its unique blend of dance, theater, comedy and socially relevant themes. Her work has toured to over 55 cities worldwide, reaching notable venues including Joyce Theater (NYC) and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Independent directing and choreography credits include Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Lookingglass Theatre, Redmoon and River North Dance Chicago, among others. Julia’s work has been supported by major awards from Herb Alpert Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, National Performance Network, National Theater Project and National Dance Project. Julia received her BA in History from Northwestern University and her MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute Chicago. She is currently Director of Dance and Lecturer in Theater and Performance Studies at The University of Chicago.

John Boesche

From Broadway theater productions to performances by premiere dance companies, John Boesche is an acclaimed Chicago-based media designer with a diverse creative background. Locally, he has worked on productions at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Goodman Theatre, Joffrey Ballet Chicago, Steppenwolf Theatre and many more. He has also worked on dozens of productions nationwide, including “The Glass Menagerie” on Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre. Since 2012, Boesche has been Chair of Digital Media for Live Performance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

About Art on theMART

Art on theMART is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5 acre river-façade of theMART. This expansive permanent piece of public art continues Chicago’s legacy of providing both residents and visitors with exceptional art that is both free and accessible to all. Projections are visible to the public from Wacker Drive and along the Chicago Riverwalk two hours a night for ten months of the year (March – December), beginning approximately 15 minutes after sundown. The projections are regularly on view five nights a week from Wednesday – Sunday, with expanded nightly viewing from May 13 – September 30, 2019.

The program content rotates every season and is selected with the assistance and expertise of the Curatorial Advisory Board. The City of Chicago and theMART work in partnership to manage and curate the projected artwork over the course of a 30-year agreement. Privately funded by Vornado Realty Trust, owner of theMART, Art on theMART marks the first time a projection of its size and scope will be completely dedicated to digital art with no branding, sponsorship credits or messaging. The permanent projection system illuminates theMART with 34 state-of-the-art projectors totaling almost one million lumens. For more information, visit