Public Art on the Chicago Riverwalk

The Chicago Public Art Collection includes more than 500 works of art exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around the city, such as police stations, libraries, and CTA stations. As part of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Public Art Program administers the Chicago Public Art Collection and implements the City’s Percent for Art Ordinance.

The Public Art Program includes exhibits along the Chicago Riverwalk pedestrian trail. In addition to the glorious views of architecturally significant skyscrapers which create an urban canyon along the Main Branch of the Chicago River, the City has permanent public art and rotating exhibits featured throughout your experience.

Allium

By Carolyn Ottmers, installed September 14, 2015

Riverwalk Location- between Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive

The ten-foot-tall cast aluminum sculpture was created in 2004.  Allium is one sculpture in a series of three, along with Parsnip and Shepherd’s Purse, collectively called “Equilibrium.”  The trio is modeled after plants that grow in Chicago and actually clean up the soil.

Echo Hecho Fresco

By Alberto Aguilar, CDOT traffic paint on wall, 2019

“After spending time on the Riverwalk I’ve come to understand it as a transient space. This zigzag pattern, which moves in multiple directions, reflects the constant movement of people through the tunnel, cars on the bridge above, boats below, as well as the river’s flow. I used Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) traffic and pedestrian paint, which in a sense makes it a mural for the people. It’s simple in design but complex in its arrangement of color value.  Applied with a 4” roller, it has an immediacy which reveals my moves and accidents. Made with a grid, it’s also regulated and measured, allowing the eye to make up for its imperfections. Now that you’ve seen it up close,I recommend viewing the mural from the opposite side of the river.”—Alberto Aguilar

Riverwalk Gateway

By Ellen Lanyon, dedicated June 24, 2000

Riverwalk location - beneath the Lake Shore Drive Bridge

This trellised, cast-concrete 127 foot long walkway is designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill linking the Chicago Riverwalk with Chicago’s lakefront.  It includes 28 ceramic panels that depict the rise of Chicago and the significance of the river to the city.  There are 14 panels on each side which present a pictorial narrative of the City’s history as it is entwined to the Chicago River.

https://www.architecture.org/

The People in Your Neighborhood

By Dont Fret, 2020
Created by one of Chicago’s most visible street artists – Dont Fret, The People in Your Neighborhood offer a microcosmic reflection of scrappy and hard-working Chicagoans found throughout the city, each portrayed in 55 images with Fret’s inimitable documentarian flair.

“There are certain character traits that I think define a true Chicagoan. Tough, full-browed with a sense of ingenuity and midwestern humbleness, but always toiling, working, moving forward with an almost absurd laugh and grin about this crazy, wonderful city,” said Dont Fret. “These are the people in your neighborhood.”

The Radiance of Being

By Kate Lynn Lewis, 2020

The Chicago Riverwalk’s Community Marketplace, just west of Michigan Avenue, is home to the mural The Radiance of Being, designed and painted by Chicago-based artist Kate Lynn Lewis. The mural celebrates 100 years of Art Deco architecture. The lead artist and her all-female crew completed the mural spanning over 180 feet tall on two level. In the artist’s own illustrative style, the scene is composed of motifs from some of Chicago’s Art Deco buildings, including the Chicago Motor Club, the St Jane, One N. LaSalle, 10 W. Elm St, the Palmolive Building, the Palmer House, the Adler Planetarium and many others. One of the Community Marketplace interior walls shows a map of where these buildings can be found in the city.

“The Riverwalk is surrounded on all angles by art deco architecture, so it felt like a great opportunity to expound on the immersive experience of painting a deco collage inspired by motifs found in the area” said artist Kate Lynn Lewis. 

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

By Gary Tillery, dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 2005

One of the largest memorials in the nation outside of Washington, D.C., it includes the names of more than 2,900 Illinois servicemen killed or missing in action, an engraved timeline of historically significant events during the waterfall into a fountain, a plaque wall, and engraved granite pavers from the city’s original memorial.

You are on Potawatomi Land

by Andrea Carlson (Ojibwe), June 2021

DCASE continues to activate and enliven the Chicago Riverwalk with the newest series of five large-scale paintings near Michigan Avenue. You are on Potawatomi Land is the largest public artwork to date by Andrea Carlson (Ojibwe), a visual artist currently living in Chicago. Conceived as a site-specific installation, “You Are on Potawatomi Land” states Carlson, “is a statement of fact. It is also a statement of perpetual belonging.”

Through painting and drawing, Andrea Carlson cites entangled cultural narratives and institutional authority relating to objects based on the merit of possession and display. Current research activities include Indigenous Futurism and assimilation metaphors in film. Her work has been acquired by institutions such as the British Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the National Gallery of Canada. Carlson was a 2008 McKnight Fellow, a 2017 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors grant recipient, and a 2020 3Arts Make a Wave Artist. You Are on Potawatomi Land adorns the Riverwalk on Wacker Drive just east of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, above the Chicago First Lady dockside ticket booths.