Chicago has a reputation as a down-to-earth, accessible city of neighborhoods. From the Chicano workers of Pilsen to the Polish enclaves of Avondale and Back of the Yards, our city has always been home to laborers from all over the world, and each neighborhood has the feeling of a distinct village, with its own culture and traditions.
This wealth of community is betrayed, however, by the fact that the city’s only officially designated arts corridor is located on Wabash, a street at the center of a concrete-and-glass South Loop district that, while home to some remarkable architecture and famous landmarks, lacks the personality and spark of Chicago’s residential neighborhoods.
Chicago deserves public art that captures the essence of the city, while benefiting its residents as well. Below are a few reasons that you should support the creation of a public mural corridor in Chicago.
We live in a city whose government often seems to have left its citizens behind. Redlining and budget deficits have left many parts of Chicago in disrepair and without intentional spaces for public engagement. In cities both large and small, studies have found that increases in public art lead to a decrease in crime in that area. In reference to an explosion in street art during the revolutions of the summer of 2020, SoHo artist Signe Ferguson stated, “We’re turning our streets into museums.”
Our neighborhoods become safer when they provide beautiful and engaging spaces to enjoy, but more than that, it is the involvement of the community in the creation of its own aesthetic that creates buy-in. Ferguson’s assertion that ‘we’ are transforming the streets is perhaps the most crucial part of her statement: when residents of a community are able to see their own aesthetic and voice reflected in their living spaces, they are more likely to become engaged and invested in the well-being of those spaces and the neighbors who occupy them.
Investment in outdoor art benefits the residents of communities, and it also pays dividends for local business owners. According to Americans for the Arts, each dollar invested into nonprofit arts generates $6 in tax revenue (Caldwell, AZ Business News). Outdoor art attracts visitors from other neighborhoods, as well as tourists from further afield. These tourists spend money on parking, food, and shopping once in the area and increase the overall economic health of the community and its businesses.
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