The City of Chicago Designates 2017 The Year of Public Art

50 years ago on August 15, 1967, Pablo Picasso’s 50-foot tall, abstract steel sculpture was donated to the city and unveiled in Daley Plaza. Chicago’s long and rich tradition of making public art an accessible, often times literally monumental, part of our every day lives, has only continued to expand and evolve.

Today, thousands of tourists visit Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (known more casually as “The Bean”) and just as many local children splash in the spray of Jaume Plensa’s interactive, face changing Crown Fountain each summer. It is art that gives Chicago much of its creative character and international appeal. In recognition of this legacy, The City of Chicago has announced a Public Art initiative and schedule for the entire year; the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events has coined 2017 as the Year of Public Art, with a slate of planned public exhibitions, and pledged a $1.5 million investment designated to support permanent public art installations throughout the city’s 50 wards.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, expressing a personal interest in public art projects notes, “There is no question that art is vital to a neighborhood’s spirit and the quality of life for residents.”

The program is designed to share art with residents in every single neighborhood, not just the downtown tourist centers. Events will showcase several neighborhoods and their unique creativity. Venues include DuSable Museum of African American History, South Side Community Art Center, Daley Plaza, National Museum of Mexican Art, and more. A significant cornerstone for the Year of Public Art will be the Public Art Festival premiering in the fall and offering free activities for people of all ages. 

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Top image: Picasso’s untitled sculpture caused a stir when it was first revealed. Today public opinion is primarily supportive, though it is a piece that still continues to inspire discussion and opinions. Photo: © Jeremy Atherton, 2006.