Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand for the dedication of a mural recognizing 20 women notable for contributions to the Chicago Arts.
Designed by internationally renowned artist and MacArthur Fellow Kerry James Marshall, the 132-foot by 100-foot mural spans the back of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., along its Garland Court side. It is the largest artwork Marshall has ever designed.
Among the 20 women depicted are two contemporary LGBTQ figures, writer and novelist Achy Obejas and Jane M. Saks, President and Artistic Director of Project& and Founding Director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media. Saks attended the ribbon cutting along with 16 of the 20 women or their representatives.
The other women include arts curators Susanne Ghez, Abena Joan Brown, Barbara Jones-Hogu and Monica Haslip; theater and dance figures Barbara Gaines, Jacqueline Russell, Ruth Page, Sandra Delgado, Jackie Taylor, Cheryl Lynn Bruce and Joan Gray; longtime Cultural Affairs Commissioner Lois Weisberg; Harriet Monroe, founder of Poetry Magazine; DuSable Museum founder Margaret Burroughs; Maggie C. Daley, Chicago's longest serving first lady; writers Gwendolyn Brooks and Sandra Cisneros; and cultural icon Oprah Winfrey.
Emanuel reminded the crowd that 2017 has been the Year of Public Art in Chicago, and remarked that art energizes public spaces. He called Marshall's work, "the largest mural I've ever seen." Marshall fondly recalled the Cultural Center as the site of his first Chicago show in 1988.
"Everything meaningful began in that moment," he said of that long-ago show. He connected the mural now gracing the back of the building to a 50-year-tradition of public art in Chicago, including "The Wall of Respect," and lauded the mural's subjects, who he called "the heart and spine" of culture.
"Culture is made by individuals first, and then they become institutions," Marshall said.