Public Art and Public Life in Chicago | Newberry

Public Art and Public Life in Chicago

Led by Diane Dillon
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Ten sessions. Wednesdays, June 15-August 17


In Person

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To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.

Seminar Description

This seminar will explore Chicago’s riches in the realm of public art, including murals, commemorative statues, architectural sculpture, and commercial decorations.

Our introductory session at the Newberry will draw upon the library’s collection of art periodicals and newspapers to trace the public responses to these works of art at the time of their production and installation. The remaining sessions will consist of walking tours, enabling us to study the works of art first hand. We will pay special attention to the role of public art in shaping identities.

For example, how has the city’s strong tradition of public art influenced Chicago’s larger civic identity and reputation? How have artworks helped solidify ethnic identities in Chicago’s neighborhoods? How have war memorials inflected the identities of veterans? What has been the impact of recent social movements and protests on public art?

We will also consider the role of public art in promoting tourism, commerce, and politics.

Diane Dillon is a scholar-in-residence at the Newberry Library. She holds a PhD in the history of art from Yale University.

Materials List


  • Instructor-Distributed Materials

First Reading:

  • No first reading assignment

Cost and Registration Information 

Ten sessions. Registration: $330 ($300 for Newberry members, seniors, and students)

Please note: You’ll register for this class on a platform called Learning Stream. Questions? Contact us at

Register for this class now.