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Kerry James Marshall Has Created a Mural for Chicago Featuring Oprah Winfrey, Susanne Ghez, and More

A rendering of the new mural.

DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS AND SPECIAL EVENTS

The people of Chicago are getting a giant mural from none other than the great Kerry James Marshall, and it looks to be a good one.

The work in question, which is being installed on the Chicago Cultural Center starting today, is, at least based on renderings, a characteristically winning outdoor scene from Marshall, with a radiant sun, cardinals aflutter as they hold a ribbon, and portraits of 20 women who have been involved in culture in the city over the years. Those women include Oprah Winfrey; Susanne Ghez, the pioneering director of the Renaissance Society; and Barbara Gaines, the founder of artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The mural will be huge—measuring 132 by 100 feet, which makes it even larger than the large mural that Marshall temporarily installed along the High Line in New York two years back.

The word RUSHMORE appears prominently on a branch of a tree in the work. “When I was asked to design a mural for narrow Garland Court, it was immediately clear to me that the site had to be ‘opened up’ in some way,” Marshall said in a statement, referring to the modestly sized street that runs along one side of the cultural center. “My solution was a park-like view with a bright sun and stand of trees to bring light and green space to the location while at the same time honoring the mission of the building as the hub of artistic activity in Chicago. My idea was to make of the trees a kind of Forest Rushmore acknowledging the contribution of 20 women who’ve worked to shape the cultural landscape of the city, past and present.”

Work on the mural will continue for the next month as part of the city’s Public Art Festival, which occurs during its Year of Public Art.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel sounds pretty pumped about the project. He told the Chicago Tribune, “My goal for the Year of Public Art was to bring the most prominent artist in the world to Chicago and give the city a gift for generations to come, with the Cultural Center serving as its campus.”

The full list of portraits included in the mural follows below, with job titles provided by the city:

Susanne Ghez, Director and Chief Curator for nearly 40 years, The Renaissance Society

Barbara Gaines, Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Jacqueline Russell, Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Children’s Theatre

Ruth Page, Dancer, Choreographer and Founder, Ruth Page Center for the Arts

Lois Weisberg, Longest-serving Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs

Maggie Daley, Longest-serving First Lady of the City of Chicago

Jackie Taylor, Founder and CEO, Black Ensemble Theater

Monica Haslip, Founder and Executive Director, Little Black Pearl

Abena Joan Brown, Founder, ETA Creative Arts Foundation

Margaret Burroughs, Founder, DuSable Museum of African American History

Harriet Monroe, Founder, Poetry Magazine

Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Co-founder, Goodman Theatre / Dearborn Homes Youth Drama Workshop

Sandra Delgado, Founding Ensemble Member, Collaboraction

Jane Saks, Founding Director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute and Project&

Barbara Jones-Hogu, Founding Member, AfriCobra

Gwendolyn Brooks, Literary Icon

Sandra Cisneros, Literary Icon

Achy Obejas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

Oprah Winfrey, Cultural Icon

Joan Gray, Dancer and Longtime President of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago



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