Explore the Chicago Public Art Program
A massive sculpture. A vibrant mural. A colorful mosaic “carpet”. You don’t have to make a trip to a museum to experience these and other magnificent works of art—in fact, they’re all on view to city residents and visitors alike as part of the Chicago Public Art Program. This special program oversees the Chicago Public Art Collection, which enhances the city with remarkable pieces by professional artists.
You’ll likely stumble across some of these works just by traveling around Chicago. But why explore more deeply by taking a self-guided insider’s tour of the best free public art the city has to offer? There are more than 700 works of art exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around Chicago, such as police stations, libraries, and CTA stations. Here’s our guide to some of the most popular—as well as some of the more undiscovered—pieces in the Chicago Public Art Collection.
This 50-foot tall steel sculpture is one of Chicago’s most beloved icons. Dedicated by Pablo Picasso in 1967, its meaning remains a mystery.
Look for it at: Daly Plaza
Also explore: Chagall’s Four Seasons, a mosaic sculpture of six Chicago scenes in 250 vibrant colors by Marc Chagall (at 10 S. Dearborn St., Chase Tower).
Inspired by liquid mercury, this silver elliptical “bean” sculpture by British artist Anish Kapoor is practically synonymous with Chicago.
Look for it at: Millennium Park
Also explore: Tony Tasset’s Snow Sculpture, a hyper-realistic replica of a typical Chicago snow pile, formed from debris such as coffee cups and matchbooks (in a display window of the old Goldblatt’s department store; 1613 W. Chicago Ave.).
The Haymarket Memorial
This red wagon-shaped sculpture by Mary Brogger marks the exact spot of the tragic Haymarket labor riot and subsequent deadly bombing in 1886.
Look for it at: 175 N. Desplaines St.
Also explore: Elizabeth Catlett’s Floating Family, a sculpture that celebrates African-American motherhood, carved from a single Mexican primavera wood tree trunk (at the Legler Branch Library; 115 S. Pulaski Rd.).
At The James
Before you set off for a day of public art, take in the latest offerings right under your nose at The James Chicago. Explore #jamespublicart, created in partnership with Johalla Projects, on the corner of Rush and Ontario streets.