City of Chicago Announces $6.8 Grant from Mellon Foundation for New Chicago Monuments
CHICAGO – The Mellon Foundation announced a grant of $6.8 million to The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) to support the Chicago Monuments Project (CMP) and citywide community-generated commemorative initiatives and installations. Funding from the Mellon Foundation will allow for the implementation of new Chicago monuments, including the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial. These projects will add—permanently and temporarily—to the City of Chicago’s collection and memorialize events, people, and groups that historically have been excluded or underrepresented. Additional funding from Mellon will also support ongoing programs that facilitate the continued engagement of artists and communities around monuments, public art, and cultural history.
Launched in 2020, the Mellon Monuments Project is a five-year, $250 million commitment to reimagine and rebuild commemorative spaces and transform the way history is told in the United States. The Mellon grant provided to DCASE is the largest grant provided under this initiative to date.
“Chicago’s monuments and memorials are more than just public art — they speak directly to the values, history, and vision of our great city,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. “I’m grateful for the Mellon Foundation’s support of the Chicago Monuments Project and the creation of cultural works around labor, civil rights, racial justice and other areas that represent our diversity, honor our history and tell our story.”
“This catalytic support from the Mellon Foundation will fundamentally strengthen our City as our public art collection becomes more honest and inclusive. We are thrilled to celebrate and support these grantees, many of whom have been hard at work for years to see that important stories are made visible,” said DCASE Commissioner Erin Harkey. “Mellon’s funding will enable the City to continue to thoughtfully and creatively engage with the complex, ever-evolving issues related to identity, justice, public space and our shared history.”
The Chicago Monuments Project (CMP) was created as a response to the City of Chicago’s need for a larger reckoning with monuments that symbolize outdated values and do not tell the story—or the full story—of Chicago’s history. A collaboration between DCASE, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and the Chicago Park District (CPD), CMP’s work began in 2020 and was guided by an advisory committee of community leaders, artists, architects, scholars, curators, and City officials.
The Chicago Monuments Project Advisory Committee released its final report in August 2022, synthesized from a comprehensive, community-focused engagement process—the first of its kind in a major U.S. city. Thousands of Chicagoans from diverse communities contributed to the conversation on the city’s public monuments through several modes including surveys, live discussions, and free-response public feedback submitted via ChicagoMonuments.org.
While significant attention was paid to issues pertaining to the existing collection, CMP agreed that its most important work was in the development of new works that will tell an inclusive story going forward. As part of its engagement process, CMP released a call, “Reimagining Monuments: Request for Ideas,” to solicit proposals from individual artists and community groups that rethink the place, purpose, and permanence of monuments in our public spaces. Eight new works were conceived and DCASE provided initial planning grants of $50,000 to organizations to help develop the project proposals.
Funding from the Mellon Foundation will help support the implementation of the eight priority projects and themes that wereidentified through the CMP new work engagement process:
- Chicago Torture Justice Memorial, artist Patricia Nguyen and architectural designer John Lee
- George Washington Monument Intervention, a new public art project by renowned Chicago artist Amanda Williams
- A Long Walk Home (ALWH), “#SayHerName: The Rekia Boyd Monument Project”
- Mother Jones, in partnership with the Mother Jones Heritage Project (MJHP), a commission to honor Mother Jones’s important contributions to labor history
- Mahalia Jackson monument by artist Gerald Griffin, spearheaded by the Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI)
- Pilsen Latina Histories, lead artist Diana Solis, scholars from the University of Illinois, Pilsen Arts & Community House staff, and additional artists and community groups in Pilsen
- Chicago Race Riots of 1919 Commemoration Project, designed and produced in partnership with youth artists at Firebird Community Arts’ Project FIRE
- Early Chicago, a series of monuments that explore the settling of Chicago, including those to Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable and Kitihawa, and projects which amplify Native American stories
The new projects are in various stages of development—some have been in development for many years and are seeking the assistance of DCASE to help implement existing designs, other projects are new ideas where designs still need to be created. Additional funding from Mellon will also support ongoing programs that facilitate the continued engagement of artists and communities, including the creation of a website, updating of signage, the development of public art education programs and tools, and funding for a comprehensive inventory, documentation, and condition assessment of the City’s collection.