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Back of the Yards

New City Program Aims To Support Artists, ‘Enrich’ Communities With Public Art On South, West Sides

The Artists-in-Residence Program will bring new public art and arts programming to Austin, Englewood, Back of the Yards and Auburn Gresham, city officials announced.

Art piece from Love and Justice by Antonia Ruppert.
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CHICAGO — A new city initiative will bring public art and cultural specific programs to four South and West side neighborhoods.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, alongside the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Department of Planning and Development, announced Thursday a Artists-in-Residence pilot program to create public art in Austin, Englewood, Back of the Yards and Auburn Gresham.

The artists selected are Dorian Sylvain in Auburn Gresham, Antonia Ruppert in Austin, Eric Hotchkiss in Englewood and Fernando Ramirez in partnership with Project Onward in Back of the Yards.

As part of the program, the artists will create a public art project following a community drive process over the span of two years. Artists will also help with recommendation on future creative pieces in each neighborhood.

The initiative is part of the mayor’s larger INVEST South/West initiative and will bring up to $700,000 investment in arts programs and public art.

The artists will receive $30,000 as a fee and up to $150,000 for their proposed public art project, a city official said.

“Now more than ever we are relying on our artists to enrich our communities and bring joy to our lives as we contend with the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 crisis,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

Painter and muralist Sylvain has led public-art projects for more than three decades. She recently received a $25,000 award from nonprofit 3Arts to help collaborate with and support South Side creatives.

Credit: Provided
Dorian Sylvain paints the base coat for her 2017 mural at the old Urban Partnership Bank site.
Credit: Provided
A Dorian Sylvain mural adorns the old Urban Partnership Bank site in October 2019.

Ruppert, who grew up in Austin, has worked on hundreds of paintings and murals. Her work has been featured at Chicago Public Library and at the University of Chicago Hospitals.

Hotchkiss, a designer, engineer and educator, is co-founder of design firm Made in Englewood. As a lecturer at School of Art Institute of Chicago, he helped students re-design the Douglass Park mini-golf course in 2019.

Ramirez is an alum of youth art program Gallery 37 and works as a commission artist drawing and painting portraits, landscapes and three-dimensional objects. He will work in partnership with nonprofit Project Onward, which supports artists with mental and developmental disabilities. 

DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly said the program will bring an “urgent cultural investment in neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.”

This pilot project would help the city’s artistic life in the short term and lay the “foundation for the long-term vitality of Chicago’s proud cultural landscape,” the mayor said.  

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