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Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago has slowed spending on public art



'RarAvis' by Ralph Helmick Stu Schechter is located Midway Airport. It's visible from center ticketing hall mezzanine Level Midway's materminal.

"Rara Avis," by Ralph Helmick and Stu Schechter, is located at Midway Airport. It's visible from the center of the ticketing hall and the mezzanine Level, in Midway's main terminal. It was produced for $250,000 in 2001. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

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Despite a slowdown in spending on public art, City Hall boasts an art collection that cost a total of $13.2 million. That sum doesn’t include the city’s best-known, and most valuable, work of public art — the Pablo Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, which was donated.

Of the artworks the city had to pay for, three of the most expensive pieces are at Midway Airport, where they were installed about 13 years ago, when the airport was enlarged.

Here’s a rundown of the city’s priciest works of public art:

“Jazz: An American Art Form,” also known as the “Captain Walter Dyett Statue,” by Ed Dwight, located at DuSable High School, 4934 S. Wabash. It cost $250,000 to create in 2007.

“Rara Avis,” by Ralph Helmick and Stu Schechter, at Midway Airport, visible from the center of the ticketing hall and the mezzanine level, in the main terminal. Created for $250,000 in 2001.

“Flight Forms,” by Richard Hunt, at Midway Airport, at the northeast corner of 59th Street and Cicero Avenue. Created for $250,000 in 2001.

“Haymarket Memorial,” by Mary Brogger, at Lake Street and Des Plaines Street. Created for $220,000 in 2004.

“Riverwalk Gateway,” by Ellen Lanyon, under Lake Shore Drive on the south side of the Chicago River. Created for $190,000 in 2000.

“Chicago in Four Seasons, North Side,” by Joe Hindley, at Chicago Police Department headquarters at 35th and State. Created for $164,200 in 2002.

“Monument to the Great Northern Migration,” by Alison Saar, at King Drive and 26th Place. Created for $150,000 in 1994.

“Tuskegee Airmen Commemorative, 2000,” by Karl Wirsum, a glass mural at the south end of Midway’s ticketing hall. Created for $150,000 in 2000.

“The Chicago Stockyards Fire Memorial,” by Tom Scarff, at Peoria Street and Exchange Avenue. Created for $150,000 in 2004.

“911 Oasis,” by Nancy Dwyer, at the 911 Emergency Communications Center, 1411 W. Madison. Created for $138,000 in 1997.

“The Recognition Panels,” by Mary Brogger, at King Drive and 25th Street. Created for $120,000 in 1996.

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Updated: February 28, 2014 6:02AM

Since 1978, the city of Chicago has required that at least 1 percent of the construction budget for any new or renovated city building has to be set aside for installing works of art in publicly accessible places on project sites.

The money required to be dedicated to art was later increased by the Chicago City Council to “1.33 percent of municipal construction or renovation costs.”

By 2004, the program was spending nearly half a million dollars a year to commission new pieces or buy art to adorn police stations, library branches, senior centers and other city buildings across Chicago.

But spending on City Hall’s pioneering “Percent for Art” program has slowed dramatically since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in 2011, records show. In 2013, the public art program spent just $17,500 through Nov. 25. Total spending in the past three years, including expenses related to administering the program, was $50,024.

Those numbers represent a huge drop-off from the last seven full years in office for Mayor Richard M. Daley, who left office in 2011. From 2004 through 2010, total spending by the Percent for Art program was nearly $2.5 million.

In part, that’s because city spending for new buildings and restoration projects has dropped in recent years, meaning less money was funneled into the Percent for Art coffers.

Still, hundreds of thousands of dollars now sit unspent in the program’s accounts — much of that for two years or longer. The total balance in the program’s account was nearly $700,000 as of Nov. 25, officials say.

That includes more than $100,000 budgeted for art at new branch libraries in Little Village and Greater Grand Crossing in 2010. None of the money set aside for art for those two city libraries has been spent.

Another $181,232 was set aside in 2011 — but not yet spent — for a police station at 1412 S. Blue Island.

In 2010, the city spent $93,500 of roughly $202,000 that was reserved for art at the police station at 850 W. Addison. The money went almost entirely for the work of local artist Todd Palmer, records show. The remaining $104,625 in the station’s art budget has sat untouched.

Only three ongoing art projects, which will cost a total of about $140,000, have been commissioned with Percent for Art funding. Work is underway on new art for the Norwood Park Senior Center, the Dunning Branch Library and the Richard M. Daley Branch Library in West Humboldt Park, city officials say.

Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn says the city plans to use the unspent money for art but hasn’t chosen artists yet or even sought proposals for some projects.

“Many of the projects that you are citing . . . are moving forward,” Quinn says, though she could not give a timetable.

In some cases, she says, “These are multiyear budgets, funds are not appropriated yearly, and they are associated with projects that may take longer than a year to complete.”


Twitter: @dmihalopoulos

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