A Year of Public Art in Chicago's Parks


Have you ever wondered about that big silver guy standing on the lakefront looking up at the sky? Or those painted and sculpted trees around the city? Or the red, dancing figure that recently moved from Douglas to Garfield Park? Well, wonder no more, we’re here to enlighten you!


Throughout 2017, the Chicago Parks Foundation is partnering with the Public Art Initiatives team at the Chicago Park District to bring you a monthly blog series about public art in the parks. The Chicago Park District is responsible for these artworks and dozens more on park land across the city. This work is an effort to enliven and beautify our parks through the voices and visions of artists working in the public realm. The series will coincide with the Year of Public Art, a year-long, city-wide celebration of public art in Chicago.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel named 2017 the Year of Public Art, or YOPA, as an opportunity to highlight the rich history of public art in Chicago, the many great artists living and working in the city, and the hundreds of works of art that grace our streets, parks, and plazas. Thanks to a designation of funding from the Mayor and the continued efforts of partners like the Chicago Park District, YOPA will also mean the creation of dozens of new works of art and hundreds of exciting events across the city. YOPA’s 50×50 initiative will place new public art in all 50 wards of the city in honor of the 50 year anniversary of two influential pieces of Chicago public art: the Picasso on Daley Plaza and the “Wall of Respect” which once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue.

Before we move into the year ahead, we want to take a moment to look back at some of the exciting public art pieces and projects the Chicago Park District has brought to parks across the city in the past year. We’ll share photos and stories about a few of our projects today, and we hope you’ll follow our monthly blog series to get the inside scoop on the artists we work with, how a 48-foot-wide sculpture gets installed, how pieces of art are selected, and so much more!

The Chicago Lakefront boasts an impressive collection of artworks from renowned international artists. The collection contains millions of dollars of artwork, all of it loaned to the Park District by the generosity of artists and galleries.

'La Ronda Parakata' by Hector Duarte & Alfonso "Piloto" Nieves, Partner: Casa Michoacan

'La Ronda Parakata' by Hector Duarte & Alfonso "Piloto" Nieves, Partner: Casa Michoacan

The Chicago Tree Project is a collaboration with Chicago Sculpture International that aims to transform dead and dying Park District trees into vibrant works of public art. Many of these trees are ash that have been impacted by Emerald Ash Borer beetles. The Chicago Tree Project offers a chance to give the trees new life instead of cutting them down.

The Cultural Centers are the arts and culture hubs of their communities. Each year, the Chicago Park District places a new work of public art at each of the 15 cultural center throughout the city. This initiative provides an opportunity to place art in parks from Calumet to Indian Boundary and everything in between and promote awareness and conversations around public art in our neighborhoods.

The Gathering Spaces are a series of five artist designed community assembly areas along the Burnham Wildlife Corridor, a meandering stretch of park land along the lakefront between McCormick Place and South 47th Street. The Gathering Spaces are a collaborative creative placemaking effort between the Park District, the Field Museum, the artists, and five community organizations.

'Sky Landing' by Yoko Ono at Jackson Park

'Sky Landing' by Yoko Ono at Jackson Park

Other highlights from 2016 include: the installation of Yoko Ono’s first permanent work of public art in the United States, “Sky Landing” on Jackson Park’s Wooded Island; “Urban Buddha: Be the Flower, Not the Bee” in Grant Park by Tashi Norbu, who was trained in the offices of the Dalai Lama; the lighting of a new project from Luftwerk on the 606; and so much more!

Didn’t see the artwork you’ve been wondering about highlighted? Click here for more information about any sculptures or monuments in the Park District’s collection.

The Chicago Park District’s public art department works for you, the park patrons, and we want to hear your voice!

Here are a few ways that you can get involved:

  • Follow @ChicagoParks and @ChiParksFdn and use #publicartintheparks to show us the pieces of public art in parks that you love!
  • Stay tuned for artist opportunities to submit proposals for new pieces of public art in the parks. Applications are now open through March 1st for the 2017 Chicago Tree Project. Click here to learn more and to apply!
  • Donate to the Chicago Parks Foundation! Your generous donation can be used to put more public art on the ground in the parks that you use and love. Donate here. 

Join us next week for an in depth look at the Chicago Tree Project!