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‘The Shape of Chicago: John Massey’s 1968 Banners Revisited’ takes over State Street

Posted  6 years ago  in  Arts and Culture  by  Jessica Cabe

Fifty years ago, downtown Chicago was brightened by a campaign of striking, graphic banners by celebrated Chicago designer John Massey. On Aug. 1, State Street between Ida B. Wells Drive and Wacker Drive will once again come alive with his designs – plus a reimagining of his work by third-grade students at Philip D. Armour Elementary School in Bridgeport.

1968 John Massey Banners/Photo credit: John Massey

“The Shape of Chicago: John Massey’s 1968 Banners Revisited” is the result of a partnership between Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation (CLAF), the Terra Foundation for American Art and Chicago Design Museum as part of the City of Chicago’s Year of Creative Youth. The initiative also coincides with Art Design Chicago, a spirited year-long celebration of Chicago’s art and design legacy spearheaded by the Terra Foundation.

Massey’s 1968 banners have been reproduced and will hang on State Street in the Loop Aug. 1-31. At the same time, students’ artwork employing Massey’s design language to illustrate what they love about Chicago will be displayed in the planter boxes along the street. Audio of students reflecting on their creations will play over Lightscape, Chicago Loop Alliance’s (CLA) multisensory light and sound installation located in the same planter boxes. The project was meant to inspire Chicago Public Schools students to think about art, design and public space through the lens of John Massey.

“Chicago Loop Alliance works to make the Loop a destination for workers, residents and visitors, and a lot of times that involves arts and cultural initiatives,” said CLA President and CEO Michael Edwards. “This banner project aligns with our mission in more ways than one. It celebrates a piece of Chicago’s history, it brings beauty to State Street that will make folks stop and appreciate the Loop, and it involves some of the young people who will one day shape this city. We’re excited for the street to transform in August.”

“The banners John Massey designed for Chicago in 1968 are as simple, striking and effective today as they were 50 years ago,” said Tanner Woodford, founder and executive director of theChicago Design Museum. “Though the banners are timeless, a group of third grade students from Mrs. Blake's class at Philip D. Armour Elementary Schoolgave them new life by creating new images from the original shapes and colors. We at the Chicago Design Museum are thrilled to celebrate this work in partnership with the Terra Foundation and Chicago Loop Alliance, revitalizing a slice of our city's rich design history along the way.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) designated 2018 as the Year of Creative Youth. All year long, festivals, events and initiatives celebrating young Chicagoans’ creativity will take place throughout the city. This Massey project with CPS students makes for a perfect tie-in.

“We at DCASE are so excited to see the Year of Creative Youth being embraced by this partnership, especially in a way that also celebrates a revered Chicago designer like John Massey,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “State Street will be transformed, and, we hope, so will the minds of these students who spent time working with Massey’s design language to create their own art.”

An invitation-only launch event celebrating the project will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2, at the Chicago Design Museum in Block Thirty-Seven. The event will feature light drinks and hors d’oeuvres, as well as remarks from the initiative’s partner organizations. There will also be a short screening of a never-before-seen interview with John Massey.

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