Mayor Emanuel Designates 2017 As The “Year Of Public Art” In Chicago, Providing $1.5 Million for Artists and Neighborhood Art Projects

October 24, 2016

Year of Public Art celebrates Chicago’s pioneering commitment to public art and new investments in artist-led community projects

Jamey Lundblad    312.744.2493,

Christine Carrino    312.744.0573,

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) have designated 2017 the “Year of Public Art” with a new 50x50 Neighborhood Arts Project, the creation of a Public Art Youth Corps, a new Public Art Festival, exhibitions, performances, tours and more—representing a $1.5 million investment in artist-led community projects.

“There is no question that art is vital to a neighborhood’s spirit and the quality of life for residents, which is why we have initiated the 50x50 Neighborhood Arts Project,” said Mayor Emanuel. “For the first time ever, we’ll be allowing Aldermen to dedicate up to $10,000 of their menu funds to finance permanent public art installations in their wards. I’ve committed to matching those menu funds dollar for dollar, doubling the money and impact of these projects.”

Managed by DCASE, the 50x50 initiative will provide up to $1 million for new public art projects. The initiative was inspired by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of two of our most seminal public artworks (the Picasso in Daley Plaza and the Wall of Respect which once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue on the South Side). Guidelines for artists who are interested in applying will be available in January at

“Every neighborhood has talented painters, photographers and sculptors whose work could brighten and enhance our City,” added DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “We are asking each of them to join us in creating new art installations across all 50 wards during the Year of Public Art.”

For the first time, up to 25 percent of the Individual Artists Program (IAP) grants awarded by DCASE next year will be earmarked for public art projects—a commitment of more than $100K. Interested local artists can access IAP guidelines at starting November 1. Mandatory application assistance workshops begin November 7. The IAP application period opens December 1, and the deadline for applications is January 13, 2017.

“Our city is home to a sprawling arts scene and many talented artists, and so we could not be more pleased that this new budget will for the first time dedicate resources to foster this talent with new art projects for people to enjoy across the city,” said 44th Ward Alderman and Chair of the Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs & Recreation, Tom Tunney. “I want to thank Mayor Emanuel for his commitment to growing public art that provides an invaluable impact on our neighborhoods and sheds a well-earned spotlight on our talented local artists.”

The 50x50 project will infuse $1 million into neighborhoods, on top of the many grants and other programs DCASE provides for local artists to contribute their talents directly to Chicago’s neighborhoods. Additionally, the IncentOvate Program grants, which will be announced in November, will provide $100,000 for public art-focused projects organized by two major cultural institutions. DCASE has also committed $110,000 to public art education and promotion during 2017.

Also new in 2017, as part of Mayor Emanuel’s One Summer Chicago, DCASE in collaboration with the Department of Family and Support Services will set aside opportunities for a Public Art Youth Corps paid internship program. Youth and young adults will be matched with community organizations to work on public art projects in neighborhoods across the city. The internship will also expose youth to career opportunities in the arts. Guidelines for jobseekers will be available this winter at

Exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) will include a “50x50 Invitational” featuring works by 50 artists representing all 50 wards, February–April; and “The Wall of Respect,” March–July, chronicling how 14 artists designed and produced the seminal mural for and within Chicago’s black South Side communities in 1967. DCASE will also mount an exhibition highlighting the murals of Pilsen, Little Village and other vibrant Latino communities in Chicago. Other upcoming events/exhibitions to complement the new 50x50 initiative include:

•  DuSable Museum of African American History (740 E. 56th Pl.) will present an exhibition and a series of public programs influenced by the Wall of Respect titled “Project RESPECT,” opening in February. The exhibit will explore its impact on Chicago’s history and the Black Arts Movement and will culminate with the creation of a mural by several local artists in October 2017.

•  Out of Site Chicago will present a series of performances in neighborhoods throughout the city during April, activating public spaces with dance and movement.

•  In May, the South Side Community Art Center (3831 S. Michigan Ave.) will host a day of art-making, biking and public art.

•  A special event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the unveiling of the iconic Picasso sculpture is being planned for August on Daley Plaza.

•  In October, the National Museum of Mexican art will join Yollocalli Arts Reach to celebrate 20 years of providing free youth programming to the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods—with a zine chronicling the public art created by Yollocalli youth over the past 20 years.

•  A symposium for public art practitioners is being planned for the fall—and a new Public Art Festival in the fall will offer dozens of free activities for families and public art aficionados.

Guided by the Chicago Cultural Plan, the Mayor has outlined a citywide vision for art and culture that has incorporated public art into projects at a variety of City departments—including DCASE as well as the Department of Transportation, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library and Chicago Transit Authority, among others.

The Chicago Public Art Collection managed by DCASE includes more than 500 works of art exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around the city, such as police stations, libraries, and CTA stations. The Collection provides the citizens of Chicago with an improved public environment and enhances city buildings and spaces with quality works of art by professional artists. DCASE also administers the City’s Percent-for-Art Ordinance established in 1978, which stipulates that 1.33% of the cost of constructing or renovating public buildings will be used for public art.

A robust schedule of free and low-cost Year of Public Art events and exhibitions will available in January 2017. Highlights include a new Public Art Festival, performances, tours and exhibitions. For more information, visit—and join the conversation on Facebook (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), Twitter @ChicagoDCASE #YOPA2017 #chipublicart and Instagram @ChicagoDCASE #YOPA2017 #chipublicart.


Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events 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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