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Chicago Public Art: AMENDS

When people think of public art in Chicago, their minds often wander to Millennium Park, where iconic pieces like Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate live. However, throughout the city, art is discoverable in every neighborhood. Today, we’re exploring the community-art project: AMENDS. In addition to being an interactive project, the expansive goal of AMENDS is to lay the foundation for the eradication of racism.

Created by internationally-renowned artists Nick Cave and Bob Faust, AMENDS is a multifaceted project living at the Chicago creative space, Facility. The collaborators first envisioned the project after the death of George Floyd in 2020. The engaging experience encourages individuals to publicly share confessions and apologies that recognize how they may be independently responsible for the continued expansion of racism.

The adversarial action is simple but an extremely intimate and impassioned way to acknowledge where individuals make change and, with hope, where society can too. AMENDS consists of three dynamic phases, each expanding on the project over time.

The first phase,“Letters to the World Toward the Eradication of Racism,” is an assemblage of letters, quotes and notes brought to life by Chicago community leaders on the windows of Facility. The remarks contain various raw and emotional expressions that are on view to everyone in the public.

“Dirty Laundry,” the second phase of AMENDS, Photo from Facility
“Dirty Laundry,” the second phase of AMENDS, Photo from Facility

“Dirty Laundry,” the second phase of AMENDS, progresses at Carl Schurz Public High School across the street from Facility. “Dirty Laundry” challenges the public to address any roles they have played in advancing racism throughout their lives. The declarations of apology metamorphose into yellow ribbons that are tied to clotheslines, creating a public collection of community remorse.

Building upon the previous phases, “Called to Action” asks for participation on a much larger scale. In the form of a hashtag — #AMENDS — the final chapter encourages people across the world to voice their avowals and invite ensuing change for the near future. Bringing together artists, community leaders and everyday people, AMENDS serves as a beacon for Chicago and pushes to keep the city moving forward. 

The power of public art is rooted in its ability to welcome beauty into communities. At the same time, it can be a driving force for inquiry, engagement and participation. The values inherent in public art are also core to the character of Optima, which we express through our commitment to incorporating thoughtful art programs into each community we build.

Alexander Calder Day

On a fall day in October of 1974, Chicago unveiled a majestic new piece of public art: a grand steel archway in a striking red color. Alexander Calder’s Flamingo officially made its mark on Chicago’s Federal Plaza, and has been an icon ever since. In honor of the sculpture’s debut, October 25, 1974 was dubbed “Alexander Calder Day,” and featured a circus parade to celebrate the artist’s great contribution to the city and to the greater world of art. 

Although Alexander Calder Day officially occurred 46 years ago, Calder’s impact is still monumental, both in Chicago and around the globe. Alexander Calder’s legacy includes collections at notable museums around the world, large scale public works and a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Gerald Ford (although the Calder family boycotted the ceremony). And Flamingo has its fair share of fame as well (even earning a scene in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

Still shot from Ferris Bueller's Day Off with Calder's Flamingo in the background

Whether it’s his work hanging in our own buildings or his impactful public artwork, we hold Calder’s work and legacy in high honor. From our team at Optima, Happy (slightly belated) Alexander Calder day!

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