Jessica Stockholder's "Color Jam" and Placemaking in Chicago

The concept of "placemaking" has been on my mind these days. The contest by the Metropolitan Planning Council mentioned in my last post has brought it into immediate focus, and lately I realize I've been more surrounded by the idea than I had previously thought. (Reminder: if you or anyone you know is engaged in placemaking around here, the "Space In Between" contest deadline is August 31st.)

In Chicago, the Chicago Loop Alliance has made some inventive moves in placemaking. They started a "Pop-up Gallery" program in 2009 to put art galleries in vacant storefronts throughout the Loop neighborhood. They helped install the permanent, yet ever-changing music-and-light piece called "Lightscape" on State Street. And, in 2010, they initiated "Art Loop", an "award-winning series that activates the Loop with contemporary art". The program invites a major artist to install a work in Chicago's Loop during the summer months. These projects are not only intriguing and beautiful, but also draw attention and visitors to the downtown neighborhood, promoting commerce.

This year's Art Loop guest is Jessica Stockholder, an internationally recognized artist who recently took a job as Chair of the Department of Visual arts at the University of Chicago.

Stockholder's piece is architectural. Her goal is to probe how 'meaning derives from physicality'. This is a notion right up my alley. I am continually intrigued by the ways individuals interact with and are defined by the spaces we create and use.

Other sites that turn city intersections into places include this one at Gansevoort Plaza in NYC, and these "do-it-yourself town squares" in Dallas. The Dallas article also shares a definition of Placemaking from the Project for Public Spaces; "Placemaking is the art of creating public ‘places of the soul', that uplift and help us connect to each other". Because I'm a teacher, here's a book reference: Placemaking: The Art and Practice of Building Communities, which calls placemaking “the way in which all human beings transform the places they find themselves into the places where they live."

Now if you're ready for life in the Chicago Loop, join me on this tour of Stockholder's Color Jam, and let me know what you think.



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  • Thanks from the Metropolitan Planning Council for the great mention about the "Space in Between" contest! For you or anyone else who is interested, here is MPC's guidebook to Placemaking in Chicago. It includes not only a step-by-step how-to guide, but also profiles of some great places in Chicago. A great resource for anyone looking to transform public space!

  • In reply to ARanieri:

    A Guide to Neighborhood Placemaking in Chicago:

  • I hope you get a lot of great projects for the contest. I'd love to hear about them. Will we be able to learn about them on your website?

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