You only have to stroll downtown Chicago to know that the city appreciates public art. Around one corner in Daley Plaza sits The Picasso. Across Washington Street from it is a Jean Miro. Walk south to Randolph Street and a Jean Dubuffet arouses chuckles as it stands outside the State of Illinois Building. If instead, you walked south on Dearborn Street you could circle Marc Chagall’s mosaic mural before heading further south to Adams to come upon a giant Alexander Calder sculpture. And those examples are a mere sampling of Chicago’s terrific public art. So here is a selection of art for you to check out and see what you think.
Rogers Park Art Gallery Sculpture Park
6902 N. Glenwood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60626
(773) 508-5885 (Rogers Park Business Alliance)
(219) 617-1741 (Gallery – best is to text)
Go see murals on the CTA “L” structures and the Metra train viaducts in the Rodgers Park neighborhood. The area on the north east side of Chicago has become an arts district and artists haven. Its Mile of Murals, a Glenwood Arts District Project, runs along Glenwood Avenue. “It Starts With You” by Dustin Harris and Lea Pinsky is the latest completed mural that was done in 2015. While on Glenwood stop at the Sculpture Garden attached to the Rogers Park Art Gallery. The sculptures are by Andy De la Rusa who made with found and reused objects. If driving around Rogers Park see more murals on the Metra underpasses along Ravenswood Avenue at Chase Avenue or Jarvis Avenue.
Michigan Ave. at E. Roosevelt Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Walk south on Michigan Avenue past Buckingham Fountain to view what seems to be tall brown figures in assorted groupings or ambling aimlessly in Grant Park at Roosevelt Drive (west of Michigan Avenue the street is Roosevelt Road). The figures are an art installation of more than a hundred nine-foot high, cast iron, headless people by Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz called Agora. If familiar with Greek terms you know Agora signifies a meeting place and that the famed Ancient Agora was in Athens. The installation has been a permanent loan from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Poland since 2006.
Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and 26th Place
Chicago, IL 60616
A bronze figure of a man stands within a circle of bollards at a Dr. Martin Luther King Drive intersection south of Chicago’s downtown Loop. He is carrying a suitcase but if you look carefully at the blocks protecting the statue’s base you will see they too are suitcases. Called the Monument to the Great Migration, the art installation is American artist Alison Saar’s tribute to African Americans who came north to Chicago in the early 1900s.
Related: Best Murals In Chicago
Cloud Gate (The Bean)
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602
Everyone calls the highly reflective, stainless steel elliptical piece in Millennium Park “The Bean.” Done by British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor, the piece’s name is actually Cloud Gate. At 60 feet long and 33 feet high, the sculpture reflects the Chicago skyline, the folks who take photos and selfies there and, of course, the sky and its clouds. An arch that allows visitors to see the underbelly and go to the other side could be considered a gateway through the reflected clouds. The sculpture has become so much of a landmark that it is easy to forget it is an art installation instead of one of the city’s famed architectural structures. Some art aficionados may argue it is both.
Wacker Drive at Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
Not noticeable from a car is the Riverwalk Gateway, a beautiful, art-filled pedestrian path that depicts Chicago’s history as it relates to its rivers and lake. Stretching along the south bank of the Chicago River to connect the lakefront bicycle path with the Chicago Riverwalk, it is a creative, trellised walkway by the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill with two long cement walls of ceramic panels. The panels are 28 murals by the late Chicago artist Ellen Lanyon that start with Jacques Marquette’s and Louis Jolliet’s explorations then continue to the 21st century.
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Jodie Jacobs is a veteran journalist who loves writing about Chicago, art, theater, museums and travel. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.