CHICAGO — The Chicago Public Art Group is celebrating is 50th anniversary with an exhibition this month and other events.
The group — which connects dozens of artists around Chicago so they can create public art such as murals — will have an exhibition titled “Our Passion’s Humanity” on display through Oct. 26. It will host a showing of the documentary “Pioneering Women Muralists of Hyde Park” 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Chicago Art Department, 1932 S. Halsted St., and a Bronzeville mural virtual tour starting 6 p.m. Thursday.
More information about the group’s anniversary events is available online.
Twenty-five years ago, Bernard Williams — then a recent art school graduate — began helping older painters with small murals, he said. He was assigned to work with the Chicago Public Art Group on a project to repair a mural in Bronzeville.
The mural, “Another Time’s Voice Remembers My Passion’s Humanity,” was created in 1979 by artists Mitchell Caton and Calvin Jones. The mural is a celebration of African American culture through connecting the past to the present, Williams said.
Williams, who grew up on the South Side, said he wasn’t exposed to art much until college. Meeting the Chicago Public Art Group was a great discovery for Williams since the mural was a departure from the conventional European art he studied in school, he said.
“It was an amazing spin on how people may experience painting and art,” said Williams, who is now the group’s president. “It’s as if you’re bringing art museums to the streets.”
Chantal Healey, the group’s executive director, said the Chicago Public Art Group was extensively involved in the Community Mural Movement in the 20th century.
In 1967, William Walker, one of the group’s co-founders, coordinated with Black artists to create a community mural called “The Wall of Respect.” The mural, which depicts African American activists Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Gwendolyn Brooks, represents the neighborhood’s communal ideals and Black pride.
Mural painting has now become a crucial tool for uniting and educating communities, Healey said. With the significant shift in cultural and political beliefs occurring at the time, artists, educators, activists and students began to express their thoughts through mural-making.
“Public art can access anybody, addressing social issues and inspiring social changes,” said Healey, who joined the Chicago Public Art Group during social unrest in 2020. “Every neighborhood should have a voice.”
Healey said the artwork has become the official representation of Chicago.
The Chicago Public Art Group now connects more than 140 artists, organizes community art workshops and provides project management, Healey said.
Williams said there aren’t many historical markers or monuments commemorating people of color in the city. Murals fill in the gap by providing individuals with a sense of belonging and pride in their surroundings, he said.
“It becomes a change element within the neighborhood,” Williams said. “It draws investment, admiration and respect.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: