2017: Sculpture at Alcott College Prep

Chicago Public Art Group partnered with Alcott College Prep using the power of art to educate and build community with students and faculty at Alcott College Prep High School. The work was made possible by the Ingenuity Creative Schools Fund.

For this project, Alcott students were led by CPAG artists John Pitman Weber and Anna Murphy, as well as Alyssa Medina, Alcott’s art teacher. Together, they created a 3D sculpture depicting the message “Love” using painted papier–mâché and mosaic tiles.

The process of creating the work comprised multiple steps: developing the concept, sketching the design, sculpting the papier- mâché onto the template, painting the papier-mâché, and placing the intricate mosaic tiles. The final product was then installed above students’ lockers in a hallway of the school.

"Love" now welcomes students, faculty, and visitors and speaks to themes of community, multi-culturalism, and dreams.

2017: ChiCAT Mosaic Fountain, "Soul-Ar"

ChiCAT and CPAG partnered with fifteen student artists to create a powerful mosaic fountain for the ChiCAT educational center. The fountain is now a gathering space for students to study, play, and socialize. The fountain was based on a foundation of poured concrete measuring about 9' x 6' x 2', then was covered in mosaics made of glass and gold tile, natural crystals, and stained glass elements created by lead artists Sonja Henderson and Andy Bellomo, and student assistants. Natural crystals and stone elements, known for their health and spiritual benefits, are intended to empower and inspire the ChiCAT students.

2016: The Sepia Project

The Sepia Project comprises new murals celebrating the spirit of Little Village and North Lawndale through portraits of community leaders from both neighborhoods, and is located on two underpasses. The murals, commissioned by 22nd ward Alderman Ricardo Muñoz and managed by Chicago Public Art Group, were developed to celebrate each neighborhood’s spirit, diversity and history, while promoting their unity.

Alderman Muñoz and community leaders wanted the viaducts to represent a bridge to each community, Little Village, a primarily Hispanic neighborhood, and North Lawndale, an African-American neighborhood. It also provided a space for artists from both communities to create art that celebrated each neighborhood’s spirit and diversity.



The finished murals were unveiled on Thursday, December 8, 2016, at 2230 S. Central Park Ave., Chicago.

About the Artists

Rahmaan Barnes grew up on the south side of Chicago, surrounded by the urban art and public murals that inspired him to get involved with the sub-culture of urban graffiti. The focus of his work became public murals that fuse the graffiti aesthetic with the classical art training he received at the American Academy of Art. As co-founder of RK Design, a graphic arts and mural company, he has produced more than 200 murals, multiple CD covers, book illustrations, and logo designs. Through Chicago Public Art Croup and Gallery 37, he has instructed children in mural painting techniques, and mentored young artists in their craft.

Max Sansing, a Chicago native, was raised on the south side in the Avalon Park community. His parents were artists, and he naturally grew to love painting at an early age. Fueled by the desire to create art, Sansing taught himself oil painting, and later completed two years of college training at the American Academy of Art, from 1999 to 2000. In addition to painting full time, Sansing has expanded his creative and artistic talents into creating murals across Chicago and New York. His current art influences include Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, Gustav Klimt, Thomas Blackshear, and his late father, Ellis Sansing. Max is the cofounder of RK Design, an art consulting group that specializes in mural and graphic design.

2016: The Sepia Project

Chicago Public Art Group worked closely with members of the North Lawndale and Little Village communities to create a public art project on four BNSF rail underpasses walls, one at Cermak and Central Park, and the other around 2225 S. Trumbull. The Sepia Project was intended to unite community members in design and painting processes, and be a lasting testament to the unique spirits of those two neighborhoods.

Large-scale portraits of residents of Lawndale and Little Village were painted on the underpass walls that link the two neighborhoods. The source for portraits was photographs provided by community members portraying the warmth and capacity of the united 22nd ward neighborhoods.

The two artists worked with the community to develop the design and theme, which was approved by a Steering Committee comprising residents of Little Village, North Lawndale, and the Alderman’s office. The fabrication involved community members who wished to participate in workshops and community days.

The Lead Artists were Max Sansing, Rahmaan Statik Barnes, Bobby Price, Miguel A. Del Real, Elizabeth Reyes, Delilah Salgado, and Epifanio Monarrez, along with Abdul-Aziz Hassan, Assistant to the Alderman, 22nd Ward. 

Sepia project artist team working on the design.

Sepia project artist team working on the design.

2016: Senator Dick Durbin Visits MLK Living Memorial

On Tuesday, October 18th, 2016, US Senator Dick Durbin visited the MLK Jr. Living Memorial in Marquette Park. The morning began with a community conversation hosted by Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) at Holy Cross Hospital. Following the conversation, Sen. Durbin toured the MLK Living Memorial and met the artists, John Pitman Weber and Sonja Henderson.

The visit concluded with a celebratory luncheon at Beth Shalom synagogue in which a diverse group of community leaders and organizations gathered to celebrate shared successes and reflect on challenges that still remain. During this celebration, community members, including CPAG Core Artists John Pitman Weber and Sonja Henderson, spoke about the significance of the MLK Living Memorial and reflected on the collaborative efforts of the many diverse organizations that came together to realize this project. 

Weaving Cultures

An extension of Aurelio Díaz’s Galería del Barrio mural at 16th and Blue Island. Across the street, Samantha Kirk and Sandra Antongiorgi have completed a parallel mural that reinterprets Díaz’s original work. “Weaving Cultures” celebrates underrepresented women of diverse backgrounds. The 15 ft. x 40 ft. mural was developed to increase awareness and encourage a dialogue around unity and acceptance.

The original mural, which extends along 16th Street’s railroad tracks, was painted in 1976 with the help of students and community members under Díaz’s guidance. This mural, featuring rows of male faces in various expressions, has also been restored.

Creating Places Symposium

When you design public space today, you know you are designing for the future. The best work will involve as many people as possible as early as possible and produce community sites that reflect a society’s vitality and creativity. These same principles guiding successful public art and design projects were at the heart of Creating Places 2007, a two-day symposium sponsored by Chicago Public Art Group and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute. More than 100 civic leaders, community development professionals, artists and urban planners gathered together to understand how each other worked on public space issues and approached future opportunities.

Olivia Gude directs attention as part of the  Creating Places 2007 South Chicago Art Garden  working group.

Olivia Gude directs attention as part of the Creating Places 2007 South Chicago Art Garden working group.

On Thursday night, “The Art of Shaping the Urban Landscape” was led by Milenko Mantanovic, renowned visual artist and founding director of the Pomegranate Center, a Washington state based nonprofit devoted to community-generated design and development. For Milenko, the work starts with the notion of connectivity—to ourselves, to one another, to a sense of place, and to the Earth. He showed images from Pomegranate’s community built projects and discussed how successful execution hinges on broad community involvement. According to Matanovic, project leaders must bring a wide variety of partners together at the beginning, replace public hearings with “public listenings,” and actively seek community involvement on the site.

Reinforcing the vitality of early community engagement was Chicago Park District landscape architect and CPAG Board member Christopher Gent, who recounted the story of the 31st Street Skate Park. When the CPD approached the skating community for ideas, they responded with a clay model that guided the development of a beautiful, highly functional project. Skaters took early ownership of this site and, consequently, have been leaders in teaching safe use and proper maintenance of the Park. Screening dozens of images of CPAG projects, Core Artist Olivia Gude emphasized how effective street-level collaboration allows residents to put a unique imprint on a shared space. Sculptor and conceptual artist Laurie Palmer showed artist proposals for an imagined, but not yet constructed public park to honor Jean Baptiste DuSable.

Architect Peter Landon and CPAG Executive Director Jon Pounds discuss some of the fine points of working in public spaces for the  Beth-Anne Campus  on Chicago’s west side.

Architect Peter Landon and CPAG Executive Director Jon Pounds discuss some of the fine points of working in public spaces for the Beth-Anne Campus on Chicago’s west side.

Friday’s conference, “Engaging the Social Imagination,” practiced a culture of playful planning. The morning networking allowed artists and architects, aldermen and community planners to share ideas, and urban planners to discuss proposals with agency heads. Attendees enjoyed the slide show of more than 100 uniquely designed places from around the world.

Milenko Mantanovic delivered the day’s keynote address, urging the crowd to stay mindful of big ideas and to resist the temptation to ignore ideas when they seem to have little to do with a project’s design because they ultimately help us understand a place’s unique qualities.

Attendees took these words to heart as they sorted themselves into four design charrettes, exercises meant to propel the planning process for four sites on Chicago’s Austin, Humboldt Park and West Town, and South Chicago neighborhoods. Charrette participants exchanged ideas, addressed a diverse array of concerns and proposed unique solutions for the various sites.

Over late afternoon dessert and coffee, participants developed a deeper appreciation for public space transformation while acquiring new vocabularies. We thank all presenters and attendees for making this day a pivotal step towards strengthening partnerships across the region and transforming our communities.

As part of  Creating Places , Caroline O’Boyle of the Chicago Park District reviews planning ideas from a  Creating Places 2007  working group for the  South Chicago Art Garden .

As part of Creating Places, Caroline O’Boyle of the Chicago Park District reviews planning ideas from a Creating Places 2007 working group for the South Chicago Art Garden.

Living Bricolage

Twenty-nine youth artists started their workday at Bryn Mawr Avenue under Lake Shore Drive smashing ceramic tiles and mirrors. From this controlled destruction, they collected thousands of pieces of ceramic tile, mirror and concrete, dabbed them with cement and carefully placed them on a wall. For weeks, they arranged broken tiles to form a train, a bicycle, a rising sun, birds taking flight, a woman practicing Tai Chi, and dozens of scenes from daily life in the Edgewater community.

Passersby gather at the end of the day to enjoy the progress on  Living 2007 .

Passersby gather at the end of the day to enjoy the progress on Living 2007.

Community is at the heart of Living 2007, a gorgeous bricolage produced by Chicago Public Art Group; Alderman Mary Ann Smith; and youth from Alternatives, Inc. hired by After School Matters. Like anthropologists unearthing a hidden world, Chicago Public Art Group artists Tracy Van Duinen and Todd Osborne spent 18 months working with Edgewater residents and community groups to uncover the neighborhood’s rich history. They found that Edgewater has been the site of architectural experimentation in modest three-flats and soaring high-rises, of Chicago’s first electrically lit neighborhood, and a popular gateway to the city’s network of bicycle lanes.

A child finds the tile he put on with his parent’s help.

A child finds the tile he put on with his parent’s help.

Creating this bricolage recreated the palpable sense of community in Edgewater, where diversity and variety, contemporary creativity and historic landmarks form a complex urban environment. Neighborhood residents, artists and non-artists alike, placed their own work on to the wall. From large ceramic animals to small glazed tiles, these elements reinforce the mural’s collaborative scope. The core of the team was a strong team of apprentice artists who worked under the direction of the Lead Artist Van Duinen to complete a 185’ x 15’ work of art in eight weeks. The tasks before them required discipline and focused energy through heat, humidity and occasional rain. The youth met the challenge head-on, steered by 18 year-old Apprentice Foreman Kory Jackson. As Jackson recalled at the Living 2007 dedication ceremony: “The main reason why I woke up in the morning was just to come here to work. This gave me my energy, this gave me my enthusiasm, to be able to work around the people I was working around.”

Youths complete the bricolage mosaic by grouting it.

Youths complete the bricolage mosaic by grouting it.

They finished the piece on time, producing a multi-layered work that dazzles at first glance but whose delights are revealed through careful, up-close observation. Rainbows of color and sun-kissed tile invite passersby to reflect how urban bustle, signified by the train rolling past high rise buildings, meets a tranquil lakefront scene where kites in a perfectly blue sky float above clay birds and fish.

Living 2007 enchants residents heading to the lakefront, commuters exiting Lake Shore Drive, and hundreds of community members who contributed their ideas and energy to a project slated to continue next summer on the opposing underpass wall.

Bricolage detail.

Bricolage detail.