Chicago gets its own ‘Rushmore’ with new Kerry James Marshall Mural



On Monday, The City of Chicago unveiled an impressive 100-foot mural painted on the western side of the Chicago Cultural Center. The mural, titled Rushmore, was commissioned for $1 dollar and created by Chicago’s own contemporary art icon, artist Kerry James Marshall. The mural was a part of Chicago’s Year of Public Art, a year-long initiative that spearheaded multiple commissions for new public art in each of the City’s 50 wards.    

Kerry James Marshall currently lives and works in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. His contributions to Chicago’s cultural landscape were awarded with a Fifth Star Honor Award from the city on August 28, 2017.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel described the mural as “a tremendous gift for the city,” from “one of the most renowned artists in the world today.” The artist is internationally renowned, with his work fetching ever higher prices in the global art market. Here at home,  Marshall's Still Life with Wedding Portrait sold for $5.04 Million during the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s Benefit Art Auction last month. The painting depicted abolitionist Harriet Tubman at her wedding.

Marshall described the $1 commision fee for the mural as an act of “civic obligation” (the mural was funded by Murals of Acceptance, a not-for-profit whose goal is to bring art to all peoples in a free, public setting.) He also reminisced that the project is a very personal return to his roots, because his first exhibition was held at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Rushmore depicts 20 women who have shaped the cultural landscape of Chicago. Included are literary icon Gwendolyn Brooks, Oprah Winfrey, Harriet Monroe, the founder of the Poetry Foundation, famed dancer Ruth Page, the City of Chicago's longest serving First Lady and cultural ambassador Maggie Daley, and many others.

The mural was started in September and took nine weeks to complete. Jeff Zimmerman, a Chicago mural artist, helped to execute Marshall’s vision and design.

This is yet another milestone in Marshall’s illustrious career. In 2016, his mid-career retrospective, Mastry, debuted at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and received rapturous praise. His work has also been featured in countless prestigious international exhibitions, such as the 1997 Whitney Biennial, the 2003 Venice Biennial, the 2009 Gwanju Biennial, and the 1999 Carnegie International.

As the Year of Public Art comes to a close, the unveiling of this mural feels like a culmination of the year’s rich art programs. Rushmore will stand as another cultural landmark for a city that is already the envy of the world for it’s extensive collection of public art, which includes works like Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain, and the Picasso Sculpture in Daley Plaza, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

Marshall’s Rushmore is a timely reminder of the women who have been underrepresented for their contributions to culture and gifts the city with a work that continues to redefine and shape the way that we think about public art.


Watch the dedication of Rushmore and a timelapse below:


For more information, and to read news about the mural written from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tonight, and the official project statement from the City of Chicago see the links below:

Chicago Tribune 

Chicago Tonight WTTW 

City of Chicago