Mayor Emanuel & The City of Chicago Unveil The First Public Art Plan

October 27, 2017

Recommendations serve to advance public art throughout the city


Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) today announced Chicago’s first Public Art Plan. The plan lays out recommendations that will help shape the future of public art in Chicago and shift how the city talks about and supports public art. The full Public Art Plan can now be downloaded at

“The Chicago Public Art Plan is an innovative blueprint that builds on Chicago’s cultural legacy and will inspire ongoing support for public art in neighborhoods throughout the city,” said Mayor Emanuel. “We will continue to support the gifted artists, working across all mediums that add to the cultural fabric of the city and inspire the next generation of talent.”

In order to guide a new vision for public art in Chicago, the Chicago Public Art Plan outlines a series of recommendations that are aligned to achieve the following overarching goals: 

  1. Update Chicago’s Percent for Art Program
  2. Establish clear and transparent governmental practices
  3. Expand resources to support the creation of public art throughout the city
  4. Advance programs that support artists, neighborhoods and the public good
  5. Strengthen the City’s collection management systems
  6. Support the work that artists and organizations do to create public art
  7. Build awareness of and engagement with Chicago’s public art

“The Chicago Public Art Plan aims to be visionary yet grounded in practice,” said Mark Kelly, DCASE Commissioner. “It speaks to how we value art and what it can mean for all Chicagoans. As Chicago powers forward as an engine of creative life, we ought not to forget that public art isn’t just one discipline – it isn’t just sculptures and statues, it’s not only murals on walls. It’s how we as a city bring artistic vision to our streets and to the public realm. By engaging in public art, we bring value meaning and pride to Chicago”

The field of public art is continually evolving and expanding to include expansive, interdisciplinary and embedded artwork. The Chicago Public Art Plan acknowledges this and establishes that the process of commissioning public art must welcome creativity in all of its forms and offer broad opportunities for participation. The new plan is a means to advocate for a diverse public art ecosystem and to nurture art that has the potential to surprise, inspire, challenge and bring people together through shared experiences.

Public art emerged as recurring theme in conversations surrounding the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012, presented by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and DCASE as the city’s first plan for the arts since 1986. The plan proposed that expanding art in public places could be a core strategy in elevating and expanding neighborhood cultural assets and a sense of place. With these goals in mind, DCASE began to formally solicit input from art­ists, cultural leaders, neighborhood advo­cates and other citizens on the future of public art in Chicago. Mayor Emanuel directed DCASE to increase emphasis on cooperation among city agencies and with community leaders in its planning for public art. Focus groups with the City of Chicago and sister agencies addressed ways to increase collabora­tion. This collective input serves as the basis for the plan’s recommendations.

The resulting Chicago Public Art Plan weaves policy, history and images together to create the framework for the plan’s recommendations. It celebrates Chicago as home for public art, while providing a path forward – establishing a shared vision for Chicago as a city where public art is valued and more essential than ever.

Lead grant support for the Chicago Public Art Plan was provided by Allstate Insurance Company.

Mayor Emanuel and DCASE have designated 2017 the “Year of Public Art,” providing a unique catalyst for the launch of the Chicago Public Art Plan. The citywide celebration commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of two seminal artworks — the Picasso in Daley Plaza and the Wall of Respect, which once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue on the South Side — and highlights the important role public art has played in Chicago’s history. The year-long initiative, representing a $4 million investment by DCASE and other City departments, includes the creation of a public art youth corps, a public art fes­tival and the new 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project, which commissioned new work in all of Chicago’s fifty wards. Grant support for the Year of Public Art is provided by Allstate Insurance Company and the Terra Foundation for American Art as part of Art Design Chicago.

Public art has long been incorporated 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. As part of the Year of Public Art, installations, exhibits and events were present in all neighborhoods across Chicago during 2017. These projects ranged from installations on the Chicago Riverwalk this summer to the addition of 15 new Cultural Center Sculptures at each of the Chicago Park District Cultural Centers this winter. CTA partnered with DCASE to install illuminated light boxes later at select rail stations, expanding on CTA’s current collection of public art, which has nearly doubled under the Mayor’s leadership and now includes more than 60 mosaics, art glass and sculptures on all eight rail lines.

Chicago has long been known as a global leader in defining and shaping public art. Chicago was one of the first municipalities in 1978 to implement an ordinance mandating that 1.33% of the cost of public buildings be set aside for the creation of original artwork. 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.

For more information, visit—and join the conversation on Facebook (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), Twitter and Instagram, @ChicagoDCASE #2017isYOPA #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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