Credit: Mobius / Wikimedia Commons

The city introduced its first ever public art plan this week, in
conjunction with a two-day symposium at the Cultural Center, and as part of the Year of Public Art.

Developed by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the plan is an ambitious, aspirational document that, according to DCASE commissioner Mark Kelly (speaking at the symposium), is intended to make public art “a defining characteristic of Chicago.”

An outgrowth of the 2012 cultural plan, the Public Art Plan lays out seven broad goals, each accompanied by (here’s where it can get dicey) a list of recommendations.  Among those likely to stir discussion are suggestions that the city:

* Widen the definition of public art (to include new, and not necessarily permanent, “artistic mediums”).

* Consider increasing the types of projects covered by the city Percent for Art Ordinance (which mandates that a portion of the cost of any new government building be spent on artwork for that project).

* “Explore” raising the Percent for Art ratio beyond the current 1.33 percent.

* Pool the Percent for Art allocations, so that the money for art could be spread through more neighborhoods.   

Here are the goals:

  1. Update Chicago’s Percent for Art program (by broadening and perhaps increasing).

  2. Establish clear and transparent governmental practices (for example, improving permit procedures).

  3. Expand resources to support the creation of public art throughout the city (including creation of a Public Art Fund that would attract private-sector donations).

  4. Advance programs that support artists, neighborhoods, and the public good (i.e., supporting events that “activate” public spaces, including festivals, parades, and performances).

  5. Strengthen the city’s collection management systems (starting with a comprehensive inventory).

  6. Support the work that artists and organizations do to create public art (providing guides to resources, supporting professional development).

  7. Build awareness of and engagement with Chicago’s public art (in part by constructing a public art website). 

The plan will be available online after an official announcement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, scheduled for 1:45 PM today.