Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) have designated 2017 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 and more—representing a $1.5 million investment in artist-led community projects.

"There is no question that art is vital to a neighborhood’s spirit and the quality of life for residents, which is why we have initiated the 50x50 Neighborhood Arts Project,” said Mayor Emanuel. “For the first time ever, we’ll be allowing Aldermen to dedicate up to $10,000 of their menu funds to finance permanent public art installations in their wards. I’ve committed to matching those menu funds dollar for dollar, doubling the money and impact of these projects.”

Managed by DCASE, the 50x50 initiative will provide up to $1 million for new public art projects. The initiative was inspired by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of two of our most seminal public artworks (the Picasso in Daley Plaza and the Wall of Respect, which once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue on the South Side). Guidelines for artists who are interested in applying will be available in January at

“Every neighborhood has talented painters, photographers and sculptors whose work could brighten and enhance our City,” added DCASE commissioner Mark Kelly. “We are asking each of them to join us in creating new art installations across all 50 wards during the Year of Public Art.”

For the first time, up to 25 percent of the Individual Artists Program (IAP) grants awarded by DCASE next year will be earmarked for public art projects—a commitment of more than $100K. Interested local artists can access IAP guidelines at starting November 1. Mandatory application assistance workshops begin November 7. The IAP application period opens December 1, and the deadline for applications is January 13, 2017.

The 50x50 project will infuse $1 million into neighborhoods, on top of the many grants and other programs DCASE provides for local artists to contribute their talents directly to Chicago’s neighborhoods. Additionally, the IncentOvate Program grants, which will be announced in November, will provide $100,000 for public art-focused projects organized by two major cultural institutions. DCASE has also committed $110,000 to public art education and promotion during 2017.

Also new in 2017, as part of Mayor Emanuel’s One Summer Chicago, DCASE—in  collaboration with the Department of Family and Support Services—will set aside opportunities for a Public Art Youth Corps paid internship program. In the program, youth and young adults will be matched with community organizations to work on public art projects in neighborhoods across the city. The internship will also expose youth to career opportunities in the arts and culture field. Guidelines for jobseekers will be available this winter at

Exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) will include a “50x50 Invitational” featuring works by 50 artists representing all 50 wards, February–April; and “The Wall of Respect,” March–July, chronicling how 14 artists designed and produced the seminal mural for and within Chicago’s African-American South Side communities in 1967. DCASE will also mount an exhibition highlighting the murals of Pilsen, Little Village and other vibrant Latino communities in Chicago. Additional programming will be announced online at

Public art like the iconic Picasso in Chicago's Dailey Plaza will get notable focus and funding in 2017 as the Year of Public Art.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Designates 2017 the "Year of Public Art"