The integration of art, artists, and “arts thinking” into the re-design of the Bloomingdale Line forms the core of The 606 Arts program and establishes a new model for public art and infrastructure reuse. The multi-dimensional Arts program converts an artifact of Chicago’s industrial heritage into a laboratory for new kinds of creative practices, linking art and life, nature and culture, and creating a new type of urban green-space. Begun as a neighborhood initiative, the project reflects a global mindset–that we must better utilize existing assets, and that we must use our collective imagination to adapt and transform what is already built. This imaginative task shall involve the participation of diverse community members, public and private agencies, and a wide array of “creatives” of all types. As an example of these new creative opportunities the transformation of the rail artifact into the nation’s longest elevated park has catalyzed the Chicago community at all levels, reflecting the grassroots vision that The 606 become a “Living Work of Art”.
As Lead Artist for The 606, it has been my privilege to serve as cultural interpreter of this grassroots vision. Fully “embedded” into the engineering and landscape design team, we have worked collaboratively to synthesize local site conditions with a broad range of contemporary art ideas to form a place-based, experiential approach. The concept that culture and sustainability are deeply linked underpins the arts strategies and creates the ethos of the Arts program, which manifests “place” at multiple scales: local, bioregional, global and virtual. This “arts thinking” has generated plans for several hybrid sites and landscape features across the length of The 606. These “embedded artworks” double as park amenities, performance venues or sites for public learning.
The 606 Arts program also calls for residencies, social practice, and participatory art forms to mix with material traditions such as mural painting to encourage interchange between communities of practice and genre cross-over. Provision is made for performative, spoken word, process-driven, rotating, and ephemeral works in all media, selected through open-call, curation, and partnerships with stakeholder organizations. A series of possibilities for invitational site commissions are woven into this verdant “art-scape.”
This multi-faceted plan for the integration of Arts for The 606 focuses on lively places and processes, which together manifest the dynamism, function and artfulness of the “Living Work of Art.”