Mayor Lightfoot, DCASE and DPD Announce Artists-In-Residence in Four South and West Side Neighborhoods

November 5, 2020

Pilot project will create public art and community-specific cultural programs in Auburn Gresham, Austin, Englewood and New City/Back of the Yards

Mayor’s Press Office    312.744.3334,

Jamey Lundblad, DCASE


CHICAGO — Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) today announced the first ever Artists-In-Residence for four of the City’s INVEST South/West neighborhoods: Auburn Gresham (Dorian Sylvain), Austin (Antonia Ruppert), Englewood (Eric Hotchkiss) and New City/Back of the Yards (Fernando Ramirez in partnership with Project Onward). As a pilot project, the initial round of the INVEST South/West (ISW) Artist-In-Residence Program is focused on creating public art and site-specific cultural programs that reflect the spirit of these four communities – to promote the health, happiness and vitality of the entire neighborhood. Each artist was selected through a community-led process, by a panel of community stakeholders.

“Now more than ever we are relying on our artists to enrich our communities and bring joy to our lives as we contend with the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Likewise, our artists are counting on our support like never before as they struggle to make ends meet. This pilot project serves as a critical program to not only uplift our city’s artistic life in the near-term, but also lay the foundation for the long-term vitality of Chicago’s proud cultural landscape.”

Auburn Gresham:
Dorian Sylvain is a painter whose color and texture explore ornamentation, pattern and design as identifiers of cultural and historical foundations. Core to her practice is collaborating with children and communities to elevate neighborhood aesthetics and foster shared understanding. She is a studio painter and muralist, as well as an art educator, curator and community planner. In addition to commissioned studio and mural work, Sylvain has led public-art projects for more than three decades.

Antonia Ruppert grew up in the Austin community. The oldest of six siblings, she recalls drawing on discarded paper inserts from her mother’s stockings because there were no funds to purchase art supplies. These humble beginnings have been instrumental in inspiring hundreds of drawings, paintings and murals – where hope, faith and community are central. Her work appears in many local and regional venues including the Chicago Public Library and University of Chicago Hospitals.

Eric Hotchkiss is a designer, engineer and educator based in Chicago. His current practice deals with bottom-up design – promoting agency within overexploited communities, cultures and subcultures through design and the production of culturally specific artifacts. Eric is also co-founder of the interdisciplinary design firm Made in Englewood, which creates objects that are culturally-relative and driven by the narratives of the community in which it resides.

New City/Back of the Yards:
Artist Fernando Ramirez is from Guanajuato, Mexico and moved at the age of three to Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. He was enrolled at Chicago’s celebrated youth arts program, Gallery 37, and now a decade later is a popular commission artist – drawing and painting portraits, landscapes and three-dimensional objects. He joined the Project Onward studio in 2006 and lives in New City. Ramirez will be serving as Artist-In-Residence in partnership with Project Onward, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the creative growth of visual artists with mental and developmental disabilities. The organization connects artists with disabilities to the arts community and the general public through the professional exhibition and sale of their work.

“We are incredibly excited to see the artworks and creative strategies our city’s talented artists will bring to this project – working in close collaboration with community members,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “This program addresses the need for urgent cultural investment in neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides – and furthers our ongoing commitments to equity and access to the arts through financial grants, artist commissions and cultural events.”

The Artist-In-Residence Program is a community-driven project that builds upon neighborhood-specific plans. At the conclusion of an engagement period, the artist will deliver a capstone public art project. In addition, the artist will provide a series of recommendations to help guide the future development of creative projects in neighborhoods. Depending on the nature of the capstone project, each Artist-In-Residence will be engaged for one to two years. The Artist-In-Residence Program represents an over $700K investment in arts programs and public art in ISW neighborhoods.

“INVEST South/West is about revitalizing the front doors to our neighborhoods, where residents can see real changes as they walk from their homes to the park, to the store, to the bus stop,” said DPD Commissioner Maurice Cox. “Identifying and subsidizing public, local art is a key component of creating that experience in all of our INVEST South/West neighborhoods.”

INVEST South/West is an unprecedented community improvement initiative from Mayor Lightfoot to marshal the resources of multiple City departments, community organizations and corporate partners toward 10 neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides. Through this groundbreaking collaborative by government, businesses, philanthropies, and community leaders, the City will align more than $750 million in public funding over three years. The initiative will seek to maximize those public investments in order to attract private capital, respond to changing commercial trends and enrich local culture.

About the Department of Planning and Development:
As the principal planning agency for the City of Chicago, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) promotes the comprehensive growth and sustainability of the City and its neighborhoods. The department also oversees the City’s zoning and land use policies and, through its economic development and housing bureaus, employs a variety of resources to encourage business and real estate development, as well as a diverse and stable housing stock throughout the City.

About the 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.