we shall rise: mother jones monument

Mar. 26, 2023

The Chicago Departments of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and Water Management (DWM) in partnership with the Mother Jones Heritage Project (MJHP) invite professional artists and artist teams with a demonstrated history of completing major permanent outdoor public art projects to submit their qualifications for a $250,000 commission remembering Mother Jones and her continuing legacy to be placed in Jane Byrne Park at the Historic Water Tower, 806 N. Michigan Avenue.


In 1978, Chicago’s City Council established the Chicago Public Art Program by unanimously approving an ordinance that gave DCASE the authority to acquire new artworks for the City. DCASE through the Chicago Public Art Program administers the Chicago Public Art Collection and implements the City’s process for commissions and donations of public art. The Collection provides the residents of Chicago with an improved public environment and enhances city buildings and spaces with quality works of art by professional artists. The Chicago Public Art Collection includes more than 500 works of art exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around the city, such as police stations, libraries, and CTA stations.

As part of the City’s ongoing efforts to promote meaningful relationships between communities and the public art in their neighborhoods and in response to the recent social unrest, DCASE administered the Chicago Monuments Project (CMP). The CMP was a multiyear look at Chicago’s existing collection of public monuments and the process by which new monuments should be created. An important result is the recommendation that all proposals for new monuments on public property must have significant community engagement and a project advisory panel (PAP) consisting of members of the group advocating for the monument, community representatives, professional art representatives and representatives from relevant City agencies in consultation with local elected officials. The typical process will follow a Request for Qualifications (RFQ)/Request for Proposals (RFP) design development and commission format.

For more information on the Chicago Public Art Program: https://bit.ly/3AsZ92Y

For more information on the Chicago Monuments Project: https://chicagomonuments.org/


DCASE, DWM and MJHP seek to honor the important contributions to labor history of Mother Jones. An Irish immigrant who became a pivotal Chicago-based labor organizer, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones (1837-1930), advocated for global justice, rejected racism against African-Americans, supported the Mexican Revolution, organized women as well as men, and worked for improved living conditions for working families. (See Appendix A.) Important goals of the project include fostering community driven monument projects, increasing the number of monuments to historic women and raising public awareness of Chicago’s important labor history. While acknowledging the deficit of representations of women and their societal contributions currently in the public art realm the panel also recognizes that the “great man” trope of monument making is not adequate to the duty of communicating fully the importance of Mother Jones, her enduring legacy and that she is part of the ongoing movement for labor rights. The task of the artist is to navigate the creative tension caused by these different needs.

The site for this monument will be Jane Byrne Park, the plaza and greenspace surrounding the Historic Water Tower, at 806 N. Michigan Avenue, named in honor of the first woman to be mayor of Chicago. The Historic Water Tower and the Chicago Avenue Pumping Station are survivors of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and were familiar to Mother Jones who was a resident of the city at that time. Given the wide-ranging nature of her organizing work there is not a definitive singular historic site associated with Mother Jones.

Successful public art proposals will approach the artwork’s subject with a deep understanding of her personal story and her role in labor history and will address its site with a bold and creative vision that is sensitive to the historic setting while helping to shape the dialog of contemporary monument making. Designs will be informed by a robust community engagement process involving the artist and interacting with project area neighborhood residents, interested members of the public from across the city, and labor historians and organizers. Designs should include elements of an appropriate size, scale and orientation to engage viewing from multiple potential vantage points. The artwork must be engineered to withstand the demands of a permanent outdoor installation in a dense urban setting and require minimal to no annual maintenance; only durable and resilient media will be considered.

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We Shall Rise: Mother Jones Monument

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