ASPIRE seeks to inspire Englewood community

A celebration for the unveiling of ASPIRE, which was created by artist Maxwell Emcays, took place on Thursday, Aug. 17. Photo provided by Sterling Bay.
A celebration for the unveiling of ASPIRE, which was created by artist Maxwell Emcays, took place on Thursday, Aug. 17. Photo provided by Sterling Bay.

 ASPIRE seeks to inspire Englewood community

By Tia Carol Jones

At the corner of 67th and Wentworth, there is a 25-foot-tall monument with a person dressed in a cap and gown and homes on one side, on another side there is a quote: With belief, power of knowledge and strength, one can aspire to greatness.

The monument, ASPIRE, is the creation of local artist Maxwell Emcays and was commissioned by Sterling Bay, in partnership with Skender and the Lamar Johnson Collaborative.

Gallery Guichard owners Andre and Frances Guichard were approached by Keiana Barrett, Chief Diversity Officer at Sterling Bay. She was inquiring about an artist for a project in Englewood community. Gallery Guichard had worked with Barrett and Sterling Bay previously on an installation project at One Two Pru.

The Guichards started to think about the artists connected to Gallery Guichard and Maxwell Emcays had always demonstrated unique creativity and the ability to execute projects in a timely manner, with professionalism.

While many people know Gallery Guichard for its work with studio artists where they create platforms for artists within the African Diaspora, Emcays is a studio artist, as well as an artist who is known for his public art.

“We’ve done many projects with Max, we know his expertise, his execution, we also know his professionalism and we always enjoy working with Max,” Frances Guichard said.

The Guichards believed choosing Emcays to create the project was a no-brainer. While Emcays is a genius, Andre Guichard said, he is not an anomaly and the Guichards are trying to show there are so many multifaceted artists who are from the South side of Chicago.

“When you unleash their creativity to the community, you come out with an end product that is more unique than anything around this city right now,” Andre Guichard said.

Frances Guichard added that what Emcays adds to his projects is his passion and his personality. He was willing to listen and work with Gallery Guichard on the project. It is part of Gallery Guichard’s mission to ensure that it exposes people to public art and ensure artists are represented in the community.

Emcays wanted to take on the project because it was connected to the work he was already doing in the community. His artwork has always been about community and it was a thrilling opportunity for him to do something he was already doing. ASPIRE aligned with his values and what he is passionate about, which made him excited about the opportunity.

“A lot of it is rooted in our lived experience and knowledge of the community, along with research; researching the history of Englewood. I think a lot of it is also rooted in how do we view Englewood and how is it viewed publicly. There’s that type of relationship,” Emcays said.

Emcays wanted to ensure that what is communicated uplifts the people. There was a lot of research, conversations and community engagement. The result was a piece that showcases the history of education in Englewood, from Kennedy-King College to elementary and high schools in the community.

It is surreal for Emcays to see the work he created in its final location. It took a lot of hard work for him to create the piece. He believes the piece is confirmation that the community is worthy of having nice things and it is worth all the hopes and dreams that it has. He also believes that a person’s environment influences a person’s demeanor.
“I believe we have to change the surroundings, we have to change the way we talk about our youth, and we showcase how we view the youth. Because we know as soon as we turn on the news, they’re going to tell a whole different story. So, we have to work twice as hard to make sure our youth are loved and appreciated and know that we believe in them,” Emcays said.

Andre Guichard said he was proud when he first saw the piece. He appreciated it as a sculpture and the research that was done to create the piece. It touched him as a very unique and exquisite sculpture. Frances Guichard was also proud, but also excited for Emcays, the community and the city and the other entities involved. She believes the piece can aspire people to be great and she has experienced the community embrace the piece.

“It’s so important to know what you do in your community is welcomed and they’re excited about it, too. I feel like this is something that is going to leave a mark for generations to come. This is just the beginning for Maxwell,” Frances Guichard said.

For more information about Maxwell Emcays, visit For more information about Gallery Guichard, visit For more information about Sterling Bay, visit

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