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Abstract

Three blocks from Lake Michigan, two blocks from the Chicago Athletic Association, and one block from Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Millennium Park is Kerry James Marshall’s mural: Rush More (fig. 2). Curiously located on the western façade of the Chicago Cultural Center, the 132-foot by 100-foot work hides among service entrances and garages only accessible from Garland Court. Illuminating the concrete alleyway, the mural depicts a Chicago park-scape in which five trees have been carved with the faces of twenty women who shaped cultural heritage in the city. Rush More was conceptualized in 2017 as part of a joint effort between Murals of Acceptance (MoA) and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). MoA is a non-profit organization that seeks to encourage social tolerance through art. DCASE is a branch of city government that manages artistic vitality in Chicago. Together, these entities recruited Marshall, secured a location, supervised execution, and publicized the final product. In this thesis, I examine the genesis of Kerry James Marshall’s mural Rush More in the context of MoA and DCASE. I consider relevant visual materials such as planning designs and paintings along with written materials such as legal contracts, policy briefs and newspaper articles. I argue that these two institutions conceived Rush More to monumentalize the celebrity of Kerry James Marshall as a proxy for resolving racial inequity within, and achieving international recognition for, the city of Chicago. Simultaneously, I put forth a multi-disciplinary approach for reviewing contemporary art in the public sphere that treats the work of art as a social intervention. This approach starts with historical context, moves to organizational analysis, then transitions to legal documents, and finally ends with close looking at the work of art.

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