10 of Chicago’s Placemakers … plus one

Hi everyone, Lumpen is releasing our 125th issue, the Placemaking and Placetaking issue, next weekend. Here are some people and organizations that are involved in Placemaking and Placetaking around Chicago.

1. Theaster Gates


We could list individually all the many projects and spaces that Gates, one of Chicago’s most well known artists, has founded or is involved with, but that would take up quite a bit of space. Gates made his name by taking his fine arts practice and applying it to the remaking of public places, in the name of revitalizing the South Side. He is the founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation, which operates the Dorchester Ave Projects and Stony Island Arts Bank, and Director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago. The University’s Place Lab was also his brainchild.

2. The Experimental Station


Located at 6100 S Blackstone Ave near Jackson Park, the Experimental Station is committed to building an “independent cultural infrastructure on the South Side of Chicago.” The Station runs a bike shop, operates the 61st Farmers Market, and hosts the Invisible Institute, as well as many arts and culture events. Artist Dan Peterman is a founder, and Connie Spreen is director.

3. Faheem Majeed


Majeed, who directed the South Side Community Arts Center for some time, has developed a body of work incorporating elements of creative placemaking that focuses on how communities are developed and how spaces become meaningful to those communities. Some important projects are his Floating Museum, with Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, and Shacks & Shanties. He’s got a show up at the MCA until August 16.

4. NeighborSpace


NeighborSpace is a non-profit urban land trust in Chicago (the only one, in fact) that helps neighborhoods sustain the life of their community gardens. They provide support services such as insurance, water access, and protection for potential development. Also check out the related Chicago Community Gardeners Association.

5. Chicago Public Art Group

The CPAG works to connect artists with urban planners, architects, and communities to bring art to public places. It began as the Chicago Mural Group in 1971 and has since expanded from there, bringing murals, mosaics, and sculpture to the public life of the city. The CPAG places an emphasis on community involvement in the projects they support.

6. 96 Acres

The force behind this project is Maria Gaspar who was named last year’s Chicagoan of the Year for art. From the project’s website: “96 Acres is a series of community-engaged, site-responsive art projects that address the impact of the Cook County Jail on Chicago’s West Side. We aim to generate alternative narratives reflecting on power, and to present creative projects that reflect the community’s vision of transformation.”

7. Chicago Loop Alliance

This is the organization behind Pop-up Art Loop and Activate, two programs in which artists take over streets and spaces downtown for temporary art interventions. The CLA also commissions public art projects downtown and runs programming in various spaces downtown, such as Pritzker Park.

8. Chicago’s Critical Mass

Perhaps not a placemaking project per se, Chicago’s Critical Mass is a large bike event occurring on a monthly basis that aims to highlight the presence of cycling in the city as an alternative means of transportation. They publish a zine! The Derailleur.

9. Jane’s Walk Chicago

From the organization’s national website: “Jane’s Walk is a movement of free, citizen-led walking tours inspired by Jane Jacobs. The walks get people to tell stories about their communities, explore their cities, and connect with neighbors.” The Chicago chapter has been operating since 2013 leading tours throughout the city.

10. The 606


This is the city’s newest public space project, just recently unveiled. An old elevated train line was turned into a park and trail space that stretches along Bloomingdale Ave, between Ashland and Ridgeway. The reworking of a disused remnant of the city’s industrial past into open green space for public use is great for the Northwest side, we’re just not entirely sure in what ways. Undoubtedly, it will prove to be a realtor’s wet dream.

11. And then … every goddam bar, restaurant, bookstore, coffeeshop, music venue, arts space in the goddam city that means something to you!

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