February 20, 2014

The People’s Palace Is Crowned With A Rich Array Of Art And History

City of Chicago presents four FREE exhibitions this winter/spring throughout the Chicago Cultural Center

Jamey Lundblad    312.744.2493 Jamey.Lundblad@cityofchicago.org

Mary May    312.744.0576 mmay@cityofchicago.org

The Chicago Cultural Center, known and loved by many as the “People’s Palace,” 78 E. Washington St., will host four new exhibitions this winter and spring with an emphasis on Chicago artists and history – and the entire building will serve as a canvas.

While visitors will be able to see all of these shows in one of Chicago’s most stunning cultural landmarks, the exhibitions are unified in their focus on Chicago as “place.” Some are places lost to Chicago and long gone; others come alive with specific pieces of art conveying a shared history and interest in public places.

The works in Jan Tichy: aroundcenter currently on view will not be confined only to the traditional exhibition space of the Chicago Rooms on the second floor. Tichy builds on the already prominent artistry of the landmark Chicago Cultural Center with displays that merge its historic features with his gift of light and photography as he invites the public to reconsider the building.

Born in Prague, Tichy moved to Israel in the mid-1990s, where he studied both political science and photography, eventually making his way to Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.

aroundcenter is a site-specific exhibition composed of nine installations, each of which stands on its own, yet at the same time relates, deriving from and leading to the others. Through this exhibition, Tichy will lead visitors to a more integrated experience of the Chicago Cultural Center, including access to unrevealed areas and resources of the building. Using light as his primary expressive tool – through a variety of media including photography, sculpture, video and video projection – Tichy illuminates and makes accessible the history and current mission of the landmark building.

Upon entering the Randolph Street side of the building, a neon sculpture created by the artist, installed and encased between the doors, will lure visitors to the building and once inside, the building’s history comes alive with an installation of artifacts from the Chicago Cultural Center storage.

Other installations include History of Painting, which features 6,000 color slides covering three massive windows on the building’s fifth floor on the Washington Street side creating a color spectrum, and Vault, a video display from inside a secret vault within the executive offices of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Jan Tichy: aroundcenter runs through April 27.

It’s been more than 60 years since the Mecca Flats building stood at 34th and State Street, yet it remains a prominent story in both architectural and sociological discussions. Mecca Flat Blues, which opened February 15 in the Sidney R. Yates Gallery on the fourth floor, is an exhibition that clearly demonstrates the two distinct identities of that building.

It was initially intended as a building for the rich, a reputation burnished by its use as a hotel during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. But while the apartments were large, its residents following the world’s fair were generally middle-class. In 1912, the building transitioned from all Caucasian residents to African American residents, and still housing middle-class professionals such as hotel clerks and Pullman Porters.

The building’s design of a skylight interior court with ornately-designed railings was distinctive, but it also contributed to the building’s reputation as having no secrets. The residents’ behavior was sometimes less than pious, which led songwriter/pianist Jimmy Blythe to write the song from which the exhibition takes its name, “Mecca Flat Blues.”

The apartment complex inspired more than a song, especially when an aspiring writer went to work for one of its residents. Called upon to deliver goods door-to-door, the writer became familiar with all the residents, getting to know them in her line of duty. Eventually the writer, Gwendolyn Brooks, would publish her poem, “In the Mecca.”

As the Illinois Institute of Technology began to expand, Mecca Flats stood in its way, but residents fought to keep their building, only losing the battle when it fell into disrepair in 1951. While preservationists often lament that replacement buildings never live up to the original beloved building, Mecca Flats was replaced by Mies Van der Rohe’s Crown Hall (a site of a Jan Tichy video display.) The exhibition has been extended through May 25.


While Chicago has long had a reputation as an architectural hub, it was the unveiling of the Picasso statue in 1967 that awakened a new passion for the city, and confirming that Chicago was indeed a city for the arts. Building on that, in 1978, the Chicago City Council unanimously approved the Percent for Art ordinance that allocates 1.33 percent of the construction budget for new public buildings to the commissioning and acquisition of artwork. The collection is in all neighborhoods, housed at over 160 individual sites and features work by more than 300 individual artists.

The Exhibit Hall located on the fourth floor of the Chicago Cultural Center will celebrate 35 Years of Public Art, an exhibition that opens February 22 through May 4.

The exhibition will include a selection of artwork from various satellite locations including libraries, police stations and other public buildings. Highlights of the installation include many maquettes (models) including Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, Jacob Lawrence’s mosaic, Events in the Life of Harold Washington and Mary Brogger’s Haymarket Memorial. The exhibition will also feature a chair and ottoman from Suite Home Chicago and a mural from the Legler Branch Library by Kerry James Marshall. The mural celebrates the library as a source of mystery and wonder.

Also featured from the District 23 police headquarters at 850 W. Addison is a work of public art by Todd Palmer, a Chicago-based curatorial design and museum planning consultant. His wall mural, entitled CODESWITCH, features the hands of diverse Chicagoans, gesturing in sign language, and representative of the human diversity of the neighborhoods served by this police station.

Also currently on view at the Chicago Cultural Center is an exhibition which highlights a different side of Frank Lloyd Wright: work created when the noted architect called himself Frank L. Wright. The work of Wright Before the “Lloyd” reflected popular historical styles such as colonial, Dutch revival and classical, until his career took a more modern trajectory.

Using new scientific techniques, fragments of Wright’s work such as grills from the Auditorium Theatre and Pilgrim Baptist Church are scanned and computer generated prints have been produced.

Those who missed “Wright’s Roots” when presented at Expo 72 in 2012 will see many elements from that exhibition. The Wright installation is open now through mid-March in the Landmark Chicago Gallery located on the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center.

All four exhibitions are presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Exhibition hours are Monday–Thursday, 10am–7pm; Friday–Sunday, 10am–6pm. Admission is FREE. The Chicago Cultural Center is open seven days a week, except holidays.

For more information, call 312.744.3316; TTY 312.744.2964 or visit chicagoculturalcenter.org, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, @ChiCulturCenter. For the latest DCASE news and events, visit cityofchicago.org/dcase, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, @ChicagoDCASE.

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Please note: The Chicago Cultural Center will host a Winter Open House on Friday, February 21. Live entertainment begins at 11am with a Juicebox performance for the whole family – and continues with a Wired Fridays mid-day DJ dance party at noon. The Open House concludes with opening events for two exhibitions, Mecca Flat Blues and 35 Years of Public Art, and LiveWire Chicago's premiere of Assistance by Leslye Headland across the street at Storefront Theater ($15; 66 E. Randolph St.). For complete schedule, visit chicagoculturalcenter.org.

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors.

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