Artist/MacArthur Fellow Kerry James Marshall will create a 132-foot-by 100-foot mural for the Chicago Cultural Center honoring 20 women “who have shaped the city’s vibrant arts and culture landscape,” the city announced Thursdsay.
Work began Thursday on the artwork, reported to be the largest ever created by the renowned artist, and will continue through October as part of the city’s Public Art Festival and Chicago’s Year of Public Art. It will be installed on the building’s Garland Court facade, between Washington and Randolph.
“Chicago is recognized across the country and around the world as an epicenter of innovative art, architecture and design,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “Kerry James Marshall’s new mural on the iconic Chicago Cultural Center will be a strong addition to Chicago’s public art portfolio and a fitting commemoration of Chicago’s Year of Public Art.”
“Seeing the facade on Garland Court, it struck us, what an incredible opportunity for a mural,” said Mark Kelly, commissioner for the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, about the genesis of the Cultural Center mural project. “I was the architect for the Wabash Arts Corridor, which [is home to] all those murals in the South Loop. So we were very aware of the power of murals especially on a large scale. And when we think of painters in Chicago, the first one that comes to mind is Kerry James Marshall, who works in such a large scale, and who is a muralist … and he is one of the most respected, acclaimed and engaging artists of our time. ”
The mural’s installation is being underwritten by Murals of Acceptance, Kelly added; no city funds will be used for the project.
“When I was asked to design a mural for narrow Garland Court, it was immediately clear to me that the site had to be ‘opened up’ in some way,” Marshall said in a prepared statement. “My solution was a park-like view with a bright sun and stand of trees to bring light and green space to the location while at the same time honoring the mission of the building as the hub of artistic activity in Chicago. My idea was to make of the trees a kind of Forest Rushmore acknowledging the contribution of 20 women who’ve worked to shape the cultural landscape of the city, past and present.”
The 20 women, selected by Marshall, who will be represented in the mural will include:
Suzanne Ghez, Director and Chief Curator for nearly 40 years, The Renaissance Society
Barbara Gaines, Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Jacqueline Russell, Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Children’s Theatre
Ruth Page, Dancer, Choreographer and Founder, Ruth Page Center for the Arts
Lois Weisberg, Longest-serving Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
Maggie Daley, Longest-serving First Lady of the City of Chicago
Jackie Taylor, Founder and CEO, Black Ensemble Theater
Monica Haslip, Founder and Executive Director, Little Black Pearl
Abena Joan Brown, Founder, eta Creative Arts Foundation
Margaret Burroughs, Founder, DuSable Museum of African American History
Harriet Monroe, Founder, Poetry Magazine
Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Co-founder, Goodman Theatre / Dearborn Homes Youth Drama Workshop
Sandra Delgado, Founding Ensemble Member, Collaboraction
Jane Saks, Founding Director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute and Project&
Barbara Jones-Hogu, Founding Member, AfriCobra
Gwendolyn Brooks, Literary Icon
Sandra Cisneros, Literary Icon
Achy Obejas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
Oprah Winfrey, Cultural Icon
Joan Gray, Dancer and Longtime President of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago
The mural will be officially unveiled in late October, Kelly said, as part of a citywide celebration of public art. “We have 50 public art installations taking place, in every ward in the city. Our hope is that going forward, public art becomes one of the defining characteristics of the city,” he said.