Chicago is one of the cultural powerhouses of the world,” muses Mark Kelly, the newly appointed Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “We have thousands of great artists and so we need to support our artists, we need to value our artists and then…they can…make our city a better place by bringing their art onto the streets.” Kelly is referring to the 50×50 Neighborhood Project, a Year of Public Art initiative announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in late 2016 to install public art in every ward in Chicago in 2017.
The Pheidole morrisi is a species of ant whose existence in New York’s Long Island tends to be confined to the area under power lines. The limitation of this animal life to fragments of land that happen to be spared death-by-concrete struck Andrew Yang, an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), as quite poignant. In urban environments, we now look for and find wildness only in spaces that have been specifically designated for nonhuman purposes.
The Lorraine Hansberry House in northwest Woodlawn is unremarkable in appearance. Its brown brick walls and minimal adornments mimic thousands of other brick three-flats built in Chicago throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its outward appearance is transformed, however, when one learns that many of Hansberry’s experiences growing up in this house served as the inspiration behind her canonical play A Raisin in the Sun—a fictionalized reflection of her parent’s fight against housing discrimination in this very home.