Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Wednesday that the city intends to assess potentially problematic public art and memorials.
According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, “The City of Chicago, in partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Chicago Park District (Parks) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS), today announced a racial healing and historical reckoning project to assess the memorials, monuments and other art across Chicago.”
The statement continued:
The project will grapple with the often unacknowledged – or forgotten – history associated with the City’s various municipal art collections, and will provide a vehicle to address the hard truths of Chicago’s racial history, confront the ways in which that history has and has not been memorialized, and develop a framework for marking public space that elevates new ways to memorialize Chicago’s true and complete history.
The statement went on to explain the four main objectives of the project, which include:
- Cataloguing monuments and public art on City or sister agency property;
- Appointing an advisory committee to determine which pieces warrant attention or action;
- Making recommendations on any new monuments or public art that could be commissioned; and
- Creating a platform for the public to engage in a civic dialogue about Chicago’s history.
“This project represents the first step in a deliberative and long-needed process by which we as a city can assess the many monuments and memorials across our neighborhoods and communities,” Lightfoot said. “This effort is not just about a single statue or mural, but how we create a platform to channel our city’s dynamic civic energy to purposefully reflect our values as Chicagoans and uplift the stories of our city’s residents, particularly when it comes to the permanent memorialization of our history and shared heritage.”
The press release also mentioned that the city, along with stakeholder groups, “will create a plan to erect a series of new monuments that equitably acknowledge Chicago’s shared history.”
During the early morning hours of July 24, Lightfoot ordered the city to take down two prominent statues of Christopher Columbus from city parks. She claimed that her decision, which was a reversal from her previous opposition to removing Columbus, was an attempt to reduce violence after protesters attempted to tear down one of the statues on their own.
Lightfoot has faced criticism this summer as Chicago has seen skyrocketing rates of violence and looting in the wake of George Floyd’s death. On Sunday and into early Monday, looters wreaked havoc along the city’s famous Magnificent Mile, a stretch of high-end stores downtown.
According to The Associated Press, “It wasn’t immediately clear what led to the unrest, which began shortly after midnight, but anti-police graffiti was seen in the area. Hours earlier, dozens of people had faced off with police after officers shot and wounded a person Sunday in the city’s Englewood neighborhood, located about 10 miles away.”
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