Chicago's One Percent Program Puts Artists to Work

It's the law and a boon for creatives. For municipal buildings, the City of Chicago must set aside 1 percent of the rehab or building budget for artists to create new work.
Chicago Art Program Haymarket Memorial by Mary Borgger

Chicago Art Program Haymarket Memorial by Mary Borgger

The Chicago Art Program commissioned the Haymarket Memorial by Mary Borgger in 2004, part of the One Percent Ordinance.

Photo by: The Cultural Center of Chicago

The Cultural Center of Chicago

The Chicago Art Program commissioned the Haymarket Memorial by Mary Borgger in 2004, part of the One Percent Ordinance.

Similar Topics:

It’s one of the many reasons Chicago is such a good-looking city. When the Percent for Art Program launched in 1978, Chicago was at the forefront of a trend to incorporate commissioned public artworks for renovated municipal buildings and new construction. Today, the program has over 200 copycats across the country. 

You’ve probably run across the famous works in the city’s 700-plus collection of sculpture and paintings. The striking Pablo Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza or Marc Chagall and Jean Miro’s work which adorns lobbies, the tops of buildings and the streets. For your pleasure, there’s a 2.6-mile South Loop walking tour of the public outdoor art.  

But this town is a flagship for the commissioned work of Chicago artists and you’ll find it all over town – at police stations, libraries and the CTA.  And the budgets are nothing to sneeze at. The 12th District Police Station on South Blue Island Avenue received $181,232.00 for an outdoor sculpture; artist Kris Yokoo worked with a $92,000 budget for mural panels at an Oak Park police station; and artist Tim Anderson created 24 portraits for the Beverly Branch Library at a cost of $45,000. 

For Chicago-based artists wanting to get in on the action the first step is signing up at the city's artist registry. Notices are sent periodically for new works: this past June, a Request for Interest (RFI) was blasted to the list for proposals to create wall-mounted pieces for the two-story, 18,655-square-foot Edgewater Branch Library. 

Who knew government was such an art lover. See more information at the Chicago Art Program website.

Next Up

Chicago Essentials

Discover the best places in Chicago for dining, shopping, meeting new people and more.

Chicago: Like No Place Else

Browse Chicago's unique attractions and find out why this city is like no place else.

Profile: Chicago, Illinois

Take a quick look at Chicago, the third largest city in the United States.

Take a Tour of Chicago's First Craft Distillery

This is the place to capture that perfect whiskey for your table. Koval Distillery, a husband-wife artisanal operation in Ravenswood, produces beautiful organic spirits the old-fashioned way: born and bottled by hand.

Chicago: How the Gangster Era Shaped the City

Learn how Chicago became so ethnically diverse -- more of a mosaic than a melting pot.

Why Hollywood Loves This Chicago Custom Furniture Maker

Owner James Murphy of Superior Custom Furniture Repair and Restoration mixes blockbuster films with local jobs.

5 Trendy Chicago First Date Restaurants

Whether it's a casual meet-up, a heart-fluttering full-tilt swoon, or a lucky, lucky chance to reveal your true intentions, why wing that first date? We've put together a tidy little list of five can't-miss Chicago watering holes and cozy restaurants to breeze through the ritual.

The Best of Flea and Fantastic Finds at Chicago's Vintage Garage

Located, literally, in a huge garage in Uptown, this show has it all: rare records for vinyl collectors, unusual and antique furniture, all shapes and styles of clothing, kicking jewelry, and the coolest vendors (and organizers) in the Midwest.

The Artful Salvager: Eric Nordstrom’s Urban Remains in Chicago

The sheer variety of rare and unusual pieces here is mind-blowing. Between the huge warehouse in Chicago’s West Town and the online catalog, this architectural antique store is like a museum where everything is for sale.

Coyle & Herr: Chicago's First Consignment Warehouse Cutting Deals on Designer Decor

The outlet is helmed by two Chicago insiders with an eye for design and an elegant spin on the home furnishings resale market.