A Gift to the City of Chicago, Kerry James Marshall will Create a Monumental Mural for the Chicago Cultural Center – During the Year of Public Art

September 21, 2017

The mural is Marshall’s largest artwork to date and will be installed on the building’s Garland Court façade, between Washington and Randolph Streets

Christine Carrino    312.744.0573, christine.carrino@cityofchicago.org


Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) are pleased to announce that internationally renowned artist and MacArthur Fellow Kerry James Marshall will create an epic, large-scale mural for the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.), honoring 20 women who have shaped the city’s vibrant arts and culture landscape. The 132-foot by 100-foot mural will be the largest artwork he has ever designed or created. Work is scheduled to begin today, September 21, and will continue throughout October to coincide with the month-long Public Art Festival—during Chicago’s Year of Public Art.

“Chicago is recognized across the country and around the world as an epicenter of innovative art, architecture and design,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “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.”

The Chicago Cultural Center is the first and most comprehensive free large-municipal cultural venue in the country. Every year, the Chicago Cultural Center, presents hundreds of free international, national, regional and local artists, musicians and performers, providing a showcase where the public can enjoy and learn about the arts. It is currently home to the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which will run through January 7, 2018.

“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,” said Kerry James Marshall. “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 mural is funded by Murals of Acceptance, whose goal is to bring art to all people in a free public setting. It will be installed on the building’s Garland Court façade, between Washington and Randolph Streets.

“Kerry James Marshall is one of our nation’s most acclaimed and important artists—and this mural for “The People’s Palace” is a true gift to the people of Chicago,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “The City of Chicago was thrilled to celebrate Kerry at the Fifth Star Honors this summer – and two of the women represented in his mural are past Fifth Star honorees: Lois Weisberg and Sandra Cisneros.”

The 20 women represented in Kerry James Marshall’s mural are a who’s who of Chicago’s arts and culture community:

  • Susanne 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

Kerry James Marshall is an artist and MacArthur Fellow. A deeply accomplished artist, Marshall uses many types of mediums, including collage, drawings, murals and even comic books. His work is known for referencing African American culture and history, including the Civil Rights era and the Black Power movement. Painting in a Realist style, he depicts dark figures that celebrate black beauty and confront general racial stereotypes within contemporary American society. He has received solo exhibitions throughout Europe and North America and his work has been included in such prestigious international exhibitions as the 1997 Whitney Biennial, the 2003 Venice Biennial, the 2009 Gwangju Biennial, two Documentas (1997 and 2007) and the 1999 Carnegie International. Debuting at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in April 2016, Marshall’s retrospective Mastry spanned his 35-year career and included nearly 80 original pieces. On August 28, 2017, the City of Chicago presented Kerry James Marshall with the Fifth Star Honor Award for his many contributions to our city’s cultural landscape.

The design and vision created by Marshall will be executed by Chicago mural artist Jeff Zimmermann and his team from Jazim, Inc.

In addition to the work on Kerry James Marshall’s mural at the Chicago Cultural Center, the City of Chicago will present a month-long Public Art Festival throughout October featuring a series of neighborhood events highlighting the city’s public art collection located throughout the city. Programs will celebrate the completion of several new artworks as part of the 50x50 Neighborhood Arts Project, a citywide initiative that commissioned dozens of local artists to create new sculptures, murals and other public artworks in Chicago’s 50 wards,representing a $1.5 million investment in artist-led community projects. In June, the City of Chicago announced the selected local artists and the participating communities. Many of these works are in the early stages of production and will be dedicated during the festival.

The month-long Public Art Festival in October will culminate with a Public Art Symposium on October 26 and 27 at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 East Washington St.). The symposium will convene artists, scholars, community organizers and public agents to explore the intersecting values of their work in public art. The symposium coincides with the release of Chicago’s first Public Art Plan, a set of recommendations that will help shape the future of public art in Chicago.

Guided by the Chicago Cultural Plan, Mayor Emanuel 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.

Grant support for the Year of Public Art is provided by Allstate Insurance Company and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

For more information, visit cityofchicago.org/yopa—and join the conversation on Facebook (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), Twitter and Instagram, @ChicagoDCASE #2017isYOPA #ChiPublicArt. To learn about the history and arts programming at the Chicago Cultural Center presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, visit chicagoculturalcenter.org—and join the conversation on Facebook (Chicago Cultural Center) and Twitter, @ChiCulturCenter.


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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