The people of Chicago are getting a giant mural from none other than the great Kerry James Marshall, and it looks to be a good one.
The work in question, which is being installed on the Chicago Cultural Center starting today, is, at least based on renderings, a characteristically winning outdoor scene from Marshall, with a radiant sun, cardinals aflutter as they hold a ribbon, and portraits of 20 women who have been involved in culture in the city over the years. Those women include Oprah Winfrey; Suzanne Ghez, the pioneering director of the Renaissance Society; and Barbara Gaines, the founder of artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
The mural will be huge—measuring 132 by 100 feet, which makes it even larger than the large mural that Marshall temporarily installed along the High Line in New York two years back.
The word RUSHMORE appears prominently on a branch of a tree in the work. “When I was asked to design a mural for narrow Garland Court, it was immediately clear to me that the site had to be ‘opened up’ in some way,” Marshall said in a statement, referring to the modestly sized street that runs along one side of the cultural center. “My solution was a park-like view with a bright sun and stand of trees to bring light and green space to the location while at the same time honoring the mission of the building as the hub of artistic activity in Chicago. My idea was to make of the trees a kind of Forest Rushmore acknowledging the contribution of 20 women who’ve worked to shape the cultural landscape of the city, past and present.”
Work on the mural will continue for the next month as part of the city’s Public Art Festival, which occurs during its Year of Public Art.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel sounds pretty pumped about the project. He told the Chicago Tribune, “My goal for the Year of Public Art was to bring the most prominent artist in the world to Chicago and give the city a gift for generations to come, with the Cultural Center serving as its campus.”
The full list of portraits included in the mural follows below, with job titles provided by the city:
• Suzanne Ghez, Director and Chief Curator for nearly 40 years, The Renaissance Society
• Barbara Gaines, Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
• Jacqueline Russell, Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Children’s Theatre
• Ruth Page, Dancer, Choreographer and Founder, Ruth Page Center for the Arts
• Lois Weisberg, Longest-serving Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
• Maggie Daley, Longest-serving First Lady of the City of Chicago
• Jackie Taylor, Founder and CEO, Black Ensemble Theater
• Monica Haslip, Founder and Executive Director, Little Black Pearl
• Abena Joan Brown, Founder, ETA Creative Arts Foundation
• Margaret Burroughs, Founder, DuSable Museum of African American History
• Harriet Monroe, Founder, Poetry Magazine
• Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Co-founder, Goodman Theatre / Dearborn Homes Youth Drama Workshop
• Sandra Delgado, Founding Ensemble Member, Collaboraction
• Jane Saks, Founding Director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute and Project&
• Barbara Jones-Hogu, Founding Member, AfriCobra
• Gwendolyn Brooks, Literary Icon
• Sandra Cisneros, Literary Icon
• Achy Obejas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
• Oprah Winfrey, Cultural Icon
• Joan Gray, Dancer and Longtime President of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago