New program seeks to increase public art

Maurice Cox is the commissioner of the city of Chicago Department of Planning and Development.
Photo courtesy of the city of Chicago.
Maurice Cox is the commissioner of the city of Chicago Department of Planning and Development. Photo courtesy of the city of Chicago.

New program seeks to increase public art


A new program is aimed at increasing public art in neighborhoods on the South and West sides that also are part of Invest South/West.

ISW Artist-in-Residence Program is an off-shot of Invest South/West, which seeks to invest and revitalize disinvested communities on the South and West Sides.

The new program will focus on Englewood, Auburn Gresham, New City and Austin. Artists chosen for the program will work with the city of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCASE), Department of Planning and Development (DPD), local residents and organizations, as well as other city agencies, to create and execute plans for programs, public art and community engagement.

“Chicago’s artists truly make our city special. Through the art and culture they create, they bring joy to our communities, drive our economy, hold a mirror to our lives, and of course, compose works of incredible beauty,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a press release.

“The wonderful ISW Artist-in-Residence Program pushes our INVEST South/West initiative in an exciting new direction by helping channel the wealth of talent brimming in our communities by giving our local artists the support they need, as well as a platform from which they can share their work and enrich the lives of Chicagoans from all walks of life.”

The program is open to professional artists and teams who live or work in Chicago. Artists who live and work within the four neighborhoods are encouraged to apply. The scope of the project should include the following: public engagement, capstone plan development and documentation at a cost of $30,000. The budget, which will include additional artists fees for oversight and implementation, will be $150,000 and is dependent on community and city approval of the project.

Mark Kelly is the commissioner for the city of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. He said cultural vitality is part of a neighborhood’s quality of life and part of the entire streetscape. “Public art has always been a defining characteristic of the city. Downtown it’s the Bean, it’s the Picasso, the list goes on,” he said. “Public art is a defining characteristic of every neighborhood and so, this Invest South/West initiative is embracing that idea.”

Kelly said the city of Chicago has never had artist embedded in neighborhoods in the way this initiative will. It also will allow artists to work as a team and engage with the community.

Kelly said the goal is to bring artists into the conversation and reimagine each of these neighborhood’s future. The artists will be embedded for one or two years, making recommendations based on that work.

Kelly said the four neighborhoods that were chosen, already have a lot going for them.

“In Austin, it’s the beautification and commercial branding of Chicago Avenue. There’s lots of excitement there. With a name like Chicago Avenue, we need to deliver the goods,” Kelly said. “Each of these neighborhoods already has an invested community, it already has projects underway.”

Maurice Cox is the commissioner for the city of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development. Cox said there is a uniqueness and singularity to each of these neighborhoods. “We are trying to create the conditions by which we can find that quality and amplify it and use it as part of the signature of that neighborhood. All of these neighborhoods have embedded in them rich traditions of artists and cultural expression,” Cox said. “If you’re trying to tap into the creative zeitgeist of a neighborhood, you should invite artists and creatives to the table as you try to amplify it.”

Cox said the partnership between the DPD and DCASE is a way to bring artists to the table and tap into the unique artistic expression all neighborhoods have. He said the partnership allows artists to help conceive of the design strategy for neighborhoods, which would make the entire neighborhood a canvas.

“This program assures that we will have artists, who I think make a very unique contribution, in terms of finding an opportunity, to do something that’s very place based that can interpret the culture of that place,” Cox said. “With the artists-in-residence, we’re trying to honor the facts that with their particular point of view, they’re amazing interpreters of culture and places are more interesting by having their input at the genesis of something being made.”

The deadline for the application is 11:59 p.m. CST Sunday, July 26. To apply, visit

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