Beyond the Battlefield: An Assessment of Chicago’s Public Art Program and Ideas for a New Direction

June, 2007

Chicago's Public Art Program has been tainted by an inordinate amount of controversy in the last decade. Media coverage of the program has focused almost exclusively on the legal challenges it has faced. This paper offers a more thorough and objective evaluation of the program’s policies and practices. I describe the program’s mission, its governance, and its artist selection procedures and compare them to public art programs in Portland, Oregon and New York City. I conclude with a set of five policy recommendations for Chicago’s Public Art Program. Specifically, I suggest that the program’s administration be transitioned into a non-profit public art organization that relies on true open competition and community-based panels for its commissions. Additionally, I recommend a restructuring of the program’s governing committee, modernization of its database of artist profiles, and development of an explicit mission statement.

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