Art comes naturally to Chicago. Between larger-than-life murals, statues, sculptures, and even pothole mosaics, the city has it all. Go on a walking tour of Chicago’s best free and public art – whether it’s been standing for nearly 50 years or painted just last month – and learn to appreciate the culture.
British artist Anish Kapoor designed Cloud Gate in 2004 to be a part of Chicago’s Millennium Park, a popular tourist destination. It’s quickly become one of the city’s most defining and iconic images, drawing visitors from all over the world who want a picture in the famous mirrored surface of ‘The Bean.’
Chicago artist Jim Bachor was frustrated by the city’s overwhelming pothole problem when he decided to do something about it in 2013. He started by filling up a pothole outside his home with glass and marble mosaic tiles, and his work has grown into an annual initiative throughout the Chicago streets. He does it without permission from the city, so his work occasionally gets paved over and lost. But what remains always manages to bring a smile to people’s faces.
Courtesy of Jim Bachor
Courtesy of Jim Bachor
In 1967, Pablo Picasso unveiled this untitled sculpture as a gift to Chicagoans, but he never explained what it was or what it represented. It initially caused controversy and backlash among residents but has grown to be a beloved piece of art in the city. It’s affectionately dubbed ‘The Picasso’ and reigns over Daley Plaza in the Loop.
In 2007, the Mile of Murals project began alongside the Rogers Park branch of the Red Line elevated train tracks. Every year, new sections of the walls and underpasses are painted with murals by local Chicago artists in order to celebrate the neighborhood’s culture and beautify the area in the process.
Visit Federal Center Plaza, and you’ll find Alexander Calder’s Flamingo. The bright, angular style of this artwork contrasts dramatically with its dark steel, urban surroundings, making it a definitive Chicago favorite since 1974. It’s gained notoriety for appearing in several Chicago-based films, including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
North Side native Tony Passero has been painting vibrant and mesmerizing murals around Chicago for years. He’s an entirely self-taught artist who incorporates a blend of Latin, Creole, and Tribal tones into his expressionist-style artwork.
This crowd of headless figures dominates the southwest corner of Museum Campus’ green space. Agora was donated to Chicago by artist Magdalena Abakanowicz in the 1970s and features a total of 106 nine-foot-tall sculptures.
The entire 606 trail through Wicker Park and Logan Square is a work of art, but it’s full of commissioned pieces as well. Some are temporary sculptures, while others are permanent murals, but they all work together to make the path a little more beautiful.
Hundreds of thousands of mosaic tiles in more than 250 colors make up six Chicago scenes on Marc Chagall’s The Four Seasons. The artwork wraps around a rectangular box that is 7 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 14 feet tall. It was unveiled in 1974 and updated in 1994.
If all else fails, know that the Chicago Cultural Center is always full of art, and it’s always open to the public. Check the calendar for specifics, but expect a lot of stunning rotating exhibits, dance performances, live concerts, and more. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon getting to know the city’s local artists.
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