Mayor Emanuel Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Chicago Picasso on Daley Plaza

"Everyone's Picasso" commemorates the 1967 unveiling of Picasso's first large-scale civic sculpture in America

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) today celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Picasso at Daley Plaza. Called Everyone’s Picasso, the ceremony restaged the original 1967 unveiling of the sculpture. The Chicago Picasso is considered to be artist Pablo Picasso’s first large-scale civic sculpture in America.

“Chicago’s Picasso exemplifies the lasting legacy public art has on the fabric of our city,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “A fitting anniversary as part of the 2017 Year of Public Art, the Picasso has inspired artists, sculptors, painters and poets to make the City of Chicago a global hub for culture and art.”

While the Picasso attracted mixed reviews when it was unveiled on August 15, 1967, it has since become an enduring influence on Chicago’s public art. It has been featured in popular films like The Blues Brothers, The Fugitive, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Now a beloved symbol of Chicago, the Picasso is central to hundreds of events in Daley Plaza, including creative arts performances and farmers markets.

“Chicago’s reputation as an innovator and leader in the presentation of public art continues to this day,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “The Picasso helped spark Chicago’s legacy of public art and has inspired artists across the world for decades.”

The commemoration ceremony, called “Everyone’s Picasso,” was conceived by artist and historian Paul Durica. Participation from contemporary arts leaders and artists included readings and performances by Nora Blakely, Orbert Davis, Tatsu Aoki, Avery R. Young and Edra Soto. The program also included youth performances by the Chicago Children’s Choir and the After School Matters Orchestra. Additionally, YouMedia teens interviewed attendees while in character as the legendary Studs Terkel.

An additional free-admission film and lecture series will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s Picasso at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.). The Public Art Film Series on August 12 and 13 at 2pm and August 14 and 15 at 6:30pm will feature films providing a time capsule to when public art, murals and sculpture were just beginning to take form in Chicago. The August 15 screening will include a film related to Picasso’s 1967 dedication. Also on August 15, at 12:15pm, cultural historian Paul Durica will moderate a conversation with Chicago artists, YouMedia teens and representatives from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive on “50 Years Later: Reflections on Chicago’s Picasso.”

The Picasso is a Chicago icon attracting visitors from around the world. The renowned sculpture stands 50 feet tall on a base of granite and is constructed of the same Cor-Ten steel as the building behind it. In the 1960s, at the request of William Hartmann, Senior Partner at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), Picasso designed the monumental artwork to relate to the Civic Center on what is known today as Daley Plaza.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of both the Picasso and the Wall of Respect that once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue, 2017 has been designated the “Year of Public Art” with a new 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project, the creation of a Public Art Youth Corps, a new Public Art Festival, exhibitions, performances, tours and more—representing a $1.5 million investment in artist-led community projects. Guided by the Chicago Cultural Plan, Mayor Emanuel has outlined a citywide vision for art and culture that has incorporated public art into projects at a variety of City departments—including DCASE as well as the Department of Transportation, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library and Chicago Transit Authority, among others. Grant support for the Year of Public Art is provided by Allstate Insurance Company and Terra Foundation for American Art.

The Chicago Public Art Collection managed by DCASE includes more than 500 works of art exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around the city, such as police stations, libraries, and CTA stations. The Collection provides the citizens of Chicago with an improved public environment and enhances city buildings and spaces with quality works of art by professional artists. DCASE also administers the City’s Percent-for-Art Ordinance established in 1978, which stipulates that 1.33% of the cost of constructing or renovating public buildings will be used for public art.