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Kerry James Marshall Will Paint A Sweeping Mural Of 20 Iconic Chicago Women At The Cultural Center

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 21, 2017 5:41PM

Rendering courtesy of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

One of the city's great visual artists is set to honor some fellow Chicago cultural icons.

Kerry James Marshall will create a sweeping, large-scale public mural on the Cultural Center's Garland Court facade (between Washington and Randolph streets) that will feature 20 leading female figures from the city's arts-and-culture history, including Oprah Winfrey, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ruth Page, Sanda Cisneros and more.

The mural, which Marshall is set to begin today, will be his largest piece of art yet, measuring 132 feet by 100 feet. Work will continue through October, according to DCASE.

“When I was asked to design a mural for narrow Garland Court, it was immediately clear to me that the site had to be ‘opened up’ in some way,” said Kerry James Marshall in a release. “My solution was a park-like view with a bright sun and stand of trees to bring light and green space to the location while at the same time honoring the mission of the building as the hub of artistic activity in Chicago.

"My idea was to make of the trees a kind of Forest Rushmore acknowledging the contribution of 20 women who’ve worked to shape the cultural landscape of the city, past and present."

Those 20 women represent some of the city's vanguard of culture, past and present. Here's the full list of figures who will be represented in the monumental artwork, according to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events:

- Suzanne Ghez, Director and Chief Curator for nearly 40 years, The Renaissance Society
- Barbara Gaines, Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
- Jacqueline Russell, Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Children’s Theatre
- Ruth Page, Dancer, Choreographer and Founder, Ruth Page Center for the Arts
- Lois Weisberg, Longest-serving Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
- Maggie Daley, Longest-serving First Lady of the City of Chicago
- Jackie Taylor, Founder and CEO, Black Ensemble Theater
- Monica Haslip, Founder and Executive Director, Little Black Pearl
- Abena Joan Brown, Founder, eta Creative Arts Foundation
- Margaret Burroughs, Founder, DuSable Museum of African American History
- Harriet Monroe, Founder, Poetry Magazine
- Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Co-founder, Goodman Theatre / Dearborn Homes Youth Drama Workshop
- Sandra Delgado, Founding Ensemble Member, Collaboraction
- Jane Saks, Founding Director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute and Project&
- Barbara Jones-Hogu, Founding Member, AfriCobra
- Gwendolyn Brooks, Literary Icon
- Sandra Cisneros, Literary Icon
- Achy Obejas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
- Oprah Winfrey, Cultural Icon
- Joan Gray, Dancer and Longtime President of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago

It was less than a month ago that Marshall told the crowd at the annual Fifth Star Honors that he doesn't do much public art in general—although he did float an appropriately gruesome potential solution to the Balbo Monument controversy—so color us happily surprised.