Crain's Chicago Business by Katherine Davis

Local and international artists will have their work displayed for the next six months in the South Loop as part of an initiative led by a local college that aims to add some zest to the area of Wabash Avenue between Van Buren Street and Roosevelt Road.

Columbia College Chicago, a private liberal arts college in the South Loop, has been placing art installations throughout the area since 2013 as part of an initiative titled the Wabash Arts Corridor to connect with local businesses in the neighborhood, said Mark Kelly, Wabash Arts Corridor chair and Columbia’s vice president for student success.

Eighteen murals will be installed on buildings such as the South Loop Club, at 1 E. Balbo Ave., Warehouse Liquors, at 634 S. Wabash Ave., and The Lightner Building, a JK Equities property at 1006 S. Michigan. They will also be installed on campus buildings at Columbia and at Roosevelt University, a small private university in the South Loop with about 5,000 students. Murals are to be finished by May 13 for Manifest, Columbia’s end-of-the-year urban art festival.

“The momentum and trajectory for the Wabash Arts Corridor—it’s stunning,” Kelly said. “We’ll have one of the greatest collections of street art of any downtown district in the country.”

The murals are by artists ranging from Eduardo Kobra from Brazil to Ricky Lee Gordon from South Africa. Other artists hail from the Netherlands and Italy. Two Columbia alumni will also contribute. The murals will stay up for at least the next six months as outlined in legal agreements, but Kelly said he expects many to remain for much longer.

The new installations bring the total number of public art pieces in the district to 38, Kelly said.
Kelly said he expects six to eight more art installations to come to the district this summer, saying one could be a 21-story mural. The additions would expand the WAC’s corridor, spanning as far as Lake Street and south of Roosevelt, he said.

“It’s a way of reminding everyone of the incredible concentration of creative and educational cultural activities that take place in this district, and Columbia is the foundation of that,” Kelly said. “When someone comes down here, they’re going to know that this is a special district with a lot of creative buzz.”

One building owner is so excited about the initiative that they are installing one before it’s even completed. The developers of a 40-story apartment high-rise in the area, a venture between Chicago-based Golub & Co. and Los Angeles-based CIM Group, have agreed to incorporate the WAC initiative into the construction of the building at 1001 S. State.

The building, slated to open in early August, will be home to Columbia alum Justus Roe’s work, a 40-foot by 150-foot colorful abstract mural facing south.

“We are excited to support this whole initiative,” said Paula Harris, a principal and senior vice president at Golub. “This is not only something that we just like to do, but it’s also in line with the branding of our building. We’re saying it’s a place for new ideas. It’s where creativity and curiosity lives.”

Link: Wabash Arts Corridor, Now With More Murals