The famed Picasso sculpture at Dailey Plaza in downtown Chicago.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Picasso at Everyone’s Picasso – a restaging event of the 1967 unveiling at Daley Plaza on Tuesday, August 8, at Noon. Originally met with mixed reviews by the public, the Picasso has become a Chicago icon attracting visitors from around the world. The 50th anniversary and restaging will welcome Chicagoans and visitors alike, and include both attendees present at the original 1976 unveiling, as well as engage a new generation of young people with the artwork.
“Chicago’s Picasso is a representation and celebration of the lasting contributions public art make to this city,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “With a daring design ahead of its time, the Picasso has been influencing public art since the 1967 unveiling. It is fitting that this anniversary is part of the 2017 Year of Public Art.
The 50th anniversary restaging was conceived by artist and historian Paul Durica, and will include participation from contemporary arts leaders and artists including DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly; Chicago artists and performers Orbert Davis, Tatsu Aoki, Avery R. Young and Edra Soto. The program also includes youth performances by the Chicago Children’s Choir and the After School Matters Orchestra. Additionally, YouMedia teens will interview attendees while in character as the legendary Studs Terkel.
“Chicago’s reputation as an innovator and leader in the presentation of public art continues to this day,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “The Picasso helped spark Chicago’s legacy of public art and has inspired artists across the world for decades.”
The Chicago Picasso is considered to be artist Pablo Picasso’s first large-scale civic sculpture in America. The world-renowned sculpture stands 50 feet tall on a base of granite and is constructed of the same Cor-Ten steel as the building behind it. In the 1960s, at the request of William Hartmann, Senior Partner at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), Picasso designed the monumental artwork to relate to the Civic Center on what is known today as Daley Plaza.
While the Picasso attracted mixed reviews when it was unveiled on August 15, 1967, it has since become an enduring influence on Chicago’s public art, having been featured in popular films like The Blues Brothers, The Fugitive, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. As a beloved symbol of the city, The Picasso is central to hundreds of events in Daley Plaza.
An additional free-admission film and lecture series will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s Picasso at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.). The Public Art Film Series on August 12 and 13 at 2 p.m. and August 14 and 15 at 6:30 p.m. will feature films providing a time capsule to when public art, murals and sculpture were just beginning to take form in Chicago. The August 15 screening will include a film related to Picasso’s 1967 dedication. Also on August 15, at 12:15 p.m., cultural historian Paul Durica will moderate a conversation with Chicago artists, YouMedia teens and representatives from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive on “50 Years Later: Reflections on Chicago’s Picasso.”
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of both the Picasso and the Wall of Respect that once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue, 2017 has been designated the “Year of Public Art” with a new 50x50 Neighborhood Arts Project, the creation of a Public Art Youth Corps, a new Public Art Festival, exhibitions, performances, tours and more—representing a $1.5 million investment in artist-led community projects. Guided by the Chicago Cultural Plan, Mayor Emanuel has outlined a citywide vision for art and culture that has incorporated public art into projects at a variety of City departments—including DCASE as well as the Department of Transportation, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library and Chicago Transit Authority, among others. Grant support for the Year of Public Art is provided by Allstate Insurance Company and Terra Foundation for American Art.
The Chicago Public Art Collection managed by DCASE includes more than 500 works of art exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around the city, including police stations, libraries, and CTA stations. The Collection is meant to provide the citizens of Chicago with an improved public environment and enhances city buildings and spaces with quality works of art by professional artists. DCASE also administers the City’s Percent-for-Art Ordinance established in 1978, which stipulates that 1.33% of the cost of constructing or renovating public buildings will be used for public art.
For more information, visit cityofchicago.org/yopa.