Public street art and murals grow in nearly every niche and cranny in Logan Square. “Logan Square can be one of those neighborhoods where you throw a rock and hit an artist,” according to Tracy Kostenbader, founder of AnySquared Projects, a collaborative and artistic network of artists in the neighborhood.
However, not every neighborhood in Chicago is the same way. Some neighborhoods lack the free art that other neighborhoods base their sense of community around.
For this reason, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) has declared 2017 the “Year of Public Art.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel and DCASE are putting up around $1 million to create new public artworks throughout the city, according to a posting on the City of Chicago’s website. Artists and photographers throughout the city are invited to apply by Feb. 24.
The aldermen in each ward will review a list of pre-qualified artists created by a panel that will be assembled by DCASE, according to the application website. Aldermen may also choose to enlist the help of stakeholders and community representatives to help guide their decision-making process.
“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 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project,” said Mayor Emanuel on the aforementioned post. “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.”
While some in Logan Square look forward to what public works the program will bring to the city, others worry about the selection process for the chosen artists.
Kostenbader opens her home and studio space to the public every Wednesday from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m., and sees a lot of artists in the neighborhood coming in and out of her doors.
“I think it’s problematic to have the alderman choose, because especially in this ward, his selection would probably be very politicized,” Kostenbader said. “And I think there’s a lot of artists who don’t support him and a lot who do.”
AnySquared studio and Kostenbader’s home near the corner of Fullerton and Milwaukee avenues is located in Ward 1, served by Alderman Joe Moreno. Kostenbader is unsure of whether or not AnySquared as a group will apply to create public work for the Year of Public Art.
Other artists in Logan Square are looking forward to the Year of Public Art in excitement of what new works it will bring to the neighborhood. Robert Castillo, a member of the AnySquared network, grew up in Logan Square and has lived here for nearly all of his 49 years.
As a graphic artist, Castillo does not plan to apply for the program himself. Castillo would like to see more public sculpture works created throughout the city.
“I am excited,” Castillo said. “I remember when there were more murals here, in a matter of fact, I was taking a picture of an apartment building on Kedzie which in the Mid ‘80s had a big mural that said ‘Welcome to Logan Square.’ I grew up at California and Milwaukee and I would walk or take the bus to there and I always loved seeing that mural. I thought it created a sense of community. I think that’s one of the things that’s missing from the neighborhood.”
Castillo and Kostenbader work with AnySquared on public art installations because they wish to create community building art activities for the neighborhood’s residents. Castillo works with the Art in the Park public art-making program at Unity Park every summer, as a member of the Unity Park Advisory Council.
While Kostenbader worries about transparency, she is also curious as to how the project will turn out, as there is no way of knowing yet what artists the aldermen will choose. As the first Year of Public Art is underway, city artists and residents wait in anticipation of the decision-making process, as well as its results.
“There’s a lot of neighborhoods that don’t have any [public art],” Kostenbader said. “If they’re doing it ward by ward then there’s gonna be some places that have more public [art] that didn’t before, and I think that part is good.”
Read more about the Year of Public Art and the project’s execution here. Have ideas or responses to the program? Want to tell us what kind of public artwork you’d like to see in Logan Square? Comment below, or contact us at email@example.com with reactions.