West Chicago creating public art inventory, artist registry

Where's the art in West Chicago?

It's a question the city's cultural arts commission is asking of all residents in an effort to create a public art inventory and a registry of every artist who lives in the city.

Cultural arts commission Chairwoman Anni Holm said residents can enter information about themselves, if they are artists, or about art they've seen in town by visiting The forms will be up indefinitely on the website, but the sooner residents enter information, the better, she said, as the commission will be reviewing information as it comes in.

"I'm hoping we're able to identify all these assets and resources in our community, but also drum up some more interest," she said. "It is already, I feel, a very arts-friendly community, but it would be great to have the involvement of more artists, of more musicians."

Anyone who makes art - whether it's drawing or watercolors, woodworking or jewelry - is invited to add their contact information to the registry.

"Nobody should feel they don't count," Holm said. "Even if they feel like, 'Oh, well, I'm just doing this as my hobby,' we're still hoping they will enter the registry."

As for the public art inventory, commission members already are aware of several pieces throughout the city, but they hope residents can point them in the direction of others they haven't thought about or that might be nontraditional.

"We are aware that some things entered into the inventory may be between the lines, but we would rather see those things," Holm said. "We'd rather have too much information than too little."

  Lily murals in West Chicago are an example of artwork included in a public art registry that the city's cultural arts commission is developing. Paul Michna/

Some examples of art the commission already has documented include murals of lilies on Turner Court, a photographic mural on Washington Street that Holm created with photos of more than 900 people's hands, and tree carvings in Reed Keppler Park.

There are also ongoing community art projects, such as light pole banners designed by local artists. But the commission feels awareness on them is too low.

  The tree carvings in Reed Keppler Park are an example of nontraditional public art in West Chicago. Paul Michna/

"We'd like to find a way to get this information directly to the artists because every year we put out the call, there's people who say, 'Oh, I didn't even know this exists,'" she said. "It's one of those things, you're not going to go around and ring every doorbell and ask, 'Is an artist living in this home?'"

Commission members have plans to use information gathered from both the inventory and the registry to help shape their goals for the future of art in the city, which they will lay out in a new master arts plan that they hope to complete sometime next year.

"In order to build this, and build it successfully, we have to figure out exactly what we have in terms of local resources and talent," Holm said. "This is something we want to do really well and we want to make sure we get all the input we need to do it well and we want to make sure the community feels like it is involved with it."

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