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More ‘inclusive and inspiring’ public art expected with city’s plan


For Kamelia Hristeva, founder and CEO of Green Star Movement, art is about more than paint on walls or the tedium that can come from piecing a mosaic together.

“It creates a sense of place making, a place that’s inclusive and inspiring,” said Hristeva, whose non-profit, art-focused group is responsible for murals, sculptures and mosaics on elementary schools and underpasses throughout the city

“When you beautify a place people care more, it connects to people and helps them connect to different communities and learn about them.”

Through the city’s 50×50 neighborhood art project, Green Star Movement has been involved in creating murals at 65th and 67th Streets and at Belmont and Kenmore Avenues as well as other artworks.

And now more artists will get the opportunity to showcase their art in the city through Chicago’s first public art plan, which aims to showcase and generate more artwork in public spaces.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday announced the plan  – a collaboration between the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Department of Transportation, the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Libraries and the Chicago Transit Authority among others.

“It’s the 50 year anniversary of the Wall of Respect and the Picasso sculpture. Those are reflection points for us in charting the history of Chicago and writing a new history,” the mayor said.

“We want to bring the city’s artists together to re-envision our spaces because they are places where we can bring people of different backgrounds together and create a common foundation.”

Rendering of murals at Diversey in the 31st Ward. The city is continuing to foster public art through its new plan. | Provided photo

After the mayor and the Department of Cultural Affairs designated 2017 the “Year of Public Art” it created “momentum,” said Cultural Affairs Chief Mark Kelly.

The seeds of that enthusiasm were planted with the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012  that suggested that expanding art in public places could be a core strategy in elevating and expanding neighborhood cultural assets.

Last year, the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Chicago Park District, the transit authority and other groups invested $4 million toward such projects through the “Year of Public Art.” Artists, and their work, in the 50×50 arts project gained visibility, and a public art youth corps and an art festival were created.

Rendering of banners in the 48th ward. The city is continuing to foster public art through its new plan. | Provided photo

“For the Year of Public Art, we had additional funds and now we need to rally the business community and cultural organizations to further the art presence in our city,” Kelly said, in hopes of building additional support.

“We need them to again embrace this idea and work with us. We need universities to consider public art in their teaching. There’s a lot to be done, but there’s a lot of excitement about what’s already happened.”

There are plans for at least 10 new artworks at CTA stations around the city in the next few years, Dorval Carter Jr., president of the transit authority, said.

Kelly said his department, and those involved in the plan, are committed to the parks and architecture because they are “the connective tissue” of the city.

Hristeva would agree.

“People seem to forget about how important public art is in the city,” she said.

“Hopefully with more art, people will realize it’s important to communities. It provides a space for people and it enhances neighborhoods and our next generation to create something that leads to history.”