Cycle Art Tour – Chicago’s Bronzeville Neighborhood
Want to cycle around Chicago’s historic south side on an art tour?
Thanks to the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago that’s how I spent part of my Labor Day weekend.
Chicago was a major destination during the first wave of the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural south starting in 1916. The south side Bronzeville neighborhood became a thriving community known as the Black Metropolis. It was anchored by a core of black-owned businesses and cultural institutions second only to New York’s Harlem.
Later generations of residents suffered from discriminatory housing policies and disinvestment in the area. Today money and residents are coming back, the neighborhood is showing signs of economic recovery and public art celebrates the neighborhood’s historic significance.
Murals by the Chicago Public Arts Group
This artist co-operative first became active in the 1970’s and some of the bike tour highlights were from that timeframe having undergone restoration work in the intervening years. The Chicago Public Arts Group continues to create public art works in conjunction with local community members. The neighborhood residents participate in the messaging, design and actual creation of the artworks.
Check out the CPAG Guide for descriptions of a large selection of murals, mosaics, sculptures, and spaces. The following descriptions come from the Guide.
A Time to Unite – “This dramatic, now restored, mural in the Oakland area was a call for renewed racial solidarity during the bicentennial year, indicated by a clock. The work blends African styles and motifs with such painterly images as blues musicians, tribal drummers, and neighborhood residents to portray the historic unity of family, community, cultural heritage, and nation in the African American tradition. This mural was the first of many significant works created by the collaborations of Caton and Jones. Bernard Williams restored Time to Unite is 2003 with the consultation of Calvin Jones.”
Black Women Emerging – “Created with the help of local residents by an artist seen as one of the mothers of the mural movement, the piece begins with images of an African dancer adorned with cultural emblems and a group of women (one bearing a rifle) rallying around a liberation flag. This mural calls on women to summon their ancestral strength in the struggle to gain access to all vocations, symbolized by a diploma, a caduceus, and scales of justice. Within a key representing domestic servitude, a woman breaks her broom, liberating herself from menial work in order to pursue higher goals.”
History of the Packinghouse Worker – “Chicago, “hog butcher to the world,” has little public art dealing with its rich legacy of workers’ movements. This artwork, among the nation’s most powerful labor murals, depicts the history of the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butchers Workmen Union. Painted on the former site of the union’s Local office, the right side of the mural shows monumental workmen of all races going about their slaughterhouse jobs with a quiet dignity; the left side shows union representatives and workers confronting bosses, demanding a union contract. The scene takes place on a chessboard, a recurrent Walker motif for representing competing social forces.
Influenced by Diego Rivera’s classical style of composition, it’s a complex, compartmentalized work filled with incident and detail. Almost lost to Chicago’s harsh weather, in 1998 the Chicago Housing Authority’s Hayes Family Investment Center commissioned CPAG artist Bernard Williams to restore the work.”
Have A Dream
‘Have A Dream’ means to continue the dream of our dreamer Dr. MLK. Realize all great achievements were first dreams. Dreams made in prayer will become reality. by Dr. C. Siddha Webber
This mural by Dr Webber was originally painted in 1995 and updated during a 2015 restoration. (Otherwise it was quite the dream to have envisioned President Obama back in ’95…) The artist is also a poet so his work frequently include quotes, scriptures, and poems.
More Than Murals
Here are a few of our other stops along the way.