Call Detail
Entry Deadline: 11/13/22
Application Closed
Work Sample Requirements
Images | Minimum:Min. 6, Maximum:Max. 10
Video | Minimum:Min. 0, Maximum:Max. 1
Total Samples | Minimum:Min. 6, Maximum:Max. 11
Call Type: Public Art
Eligibility: National
State: Illinois
Budget: Artist Design Fee: $150,000, Construction and Installation: $2,000,000

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), in collaboration with the Department of Transportation (CDOT), seeks professional artists with significant public art experience to develop conceptual proposals for two place-defining Gateways and light pole identifiers for the Austin neighborhood’s “Soul City Corridor,” to be installed between Chicago Avenue at Austin Boulevard and Chicago Avenue at Cicero Avenue.

This opportunity is open nationally to all professional artists and artist teams with demonstrated experience completing large-scale public art projects ; local artists and teams are highly encouraged to apply.

In 2019, the City of Chicago launched INVEST South/West (ISW), a community improvement initiative with the goal to re-activate 10 neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides. Then, in November 2020, the City announced a Five-Year Capital Plan to improve the quality of life for all Chicago residents by investing in infrastructure and City facilities in all 77 communities. In conjunction with the Capital Plan, DCASE was given $6 million to support a Public Art and Infrastructure Program that provides significant jobs and workforce opportunities for artists by integrating public art into capital projects focused in ISW neighborhoods.

Chicago Avenue in the Austin neighborhood—from Austin to Cicero—is one of 12 key ISW commercial corridors and has been identified as the Soul City Corridor. CDOT is leading the Chicago Avenue Corridor Improvement Project from Austin Boulevard to Cicero Avenue. The project will provide a safe, walkable, and attractive street that will foster community vibrancy and economic growth. This effort will support the INVEST South/West initiative to re-activate neighborhood cores that have historically served as focal points for pedestrian activity, shopping, services, transportation, public spaces and quality-of life amenities for residents. DCASE has conducted extensive community engagement in Austin to scope investments through an artist-led planning initiative, the Public Art Reimagining Tour with You (P.A.R.T.Y). Information collected through this engagement process will be available to the commissioned artist/team to help inform the development of conceptual proposals for the Austin gateways and light pole identifiers.


DCASE and CDOT are partnering to select an artist or artist team with significant public art experience who will design site-specific, original, and permanent gateways on Chicago Avenue at Austin Boulevard and Cicero Ave—the west and east entrances to the “Soul City Corridor”—along with complementary designs for light pole community identifiers spanning the corridor. The Soul City Gateways are an unprecedented opportunity for artists to create a place-defining artwork for the Austin community in the heart of the neighborhood.

The community identifiers will be designed alongside CDOT’s design consultants to AASHTO standards, the Chicago Building Code, and in accordance with direction provided by the CDOT Structural department.  The Western Gateway shall be located near 5946 W Chicago Avenue as shown in the attached exhibit and must span the roadway. The Eastern Gateway shall be located near Cicero at approximately 4820 W Chicago Ave and should be visually and conceptually linked to its Western counterpart. The Eastern Gateway may not span the roadway.

Through ongoing meetings and workshops, community partners have articulated a vision for Soul City identity elements. The Soul City Gateways and accompanying light pole identifies should:

o   Be rooted in a distinct cultural identity of Black art, music, food, and entertainment

o   Be Informed by historical roots on the West Side

o   Celebrate the existing arts and culture scene in Austin

o   Amplify Austin as a historic and contemporary enclave for Black wellness, culture and economic development.

The commissioned artists will be responsible for design services for the Gateways and community light pole identifiers, including but not limited to: research and community engagement for concept development; detailed renderings for all locations and objects; scaled detailed drawings that convey the design intent to the CDOT engineering team for the production of construction bid documents; participation in reviewing construction documents, fabrication, and installation; documentation; and attendance at meetings and related public events.

Designs should include elements of an appropriate size, scale and orientation to engage viewing from multiple potential vantage points, including pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The artwork must be engineered to withstand the demands of its environment and require minimal to no annual maintenance; only durable and resilient media will be considered.

Once the concept is approved, the commissioned artist/team will work in close partnership with DCASE and CDOT design, engineering, and construction consultants to evolve their concept to a final design package that will be issued for construction. The artist will work with CDOT throughout the design, engineering, fabrication, and installation processes, but work will be engineered, constructed and installed by CDOT.


Austin is Chicago’s second-largest neighborhood in both population and land area, covering the western border of the City of Chicago west of the Loop and is adjacent to the suburbs of Cicero and Oak Park. By the early 20th century, Austin was one of Chicago’s best-served residential commuter areas, with street railways to downtown Chicago every half mile, along North, Division, Chicago, Lake, and Madison. The area was also served by the Lake Street “L” rapid transit, now known as the CTA Green Line. Commerce in Austin followed transit lines, with significant business development along Madison Street, Chicago Avenue, and Lake Street. In 1950 Austin was a predominantly residential community, with major industrial corridors to the east, north, and south. Austin’s demographic profile shifted dramatically beginning in the late 1960s. By 1980 Austin’s population was predominantly African American, more than 96 percent in south Austin. Like other West Side communities, Austin experienced housing disinvestment, vacancy, and demolition, as well as loss of jobs and of commerce as its white population moved to the suburbs and to Chicago’s Northwest Side.

Chicago Avenue is a key commercial corridor through the Austin community, and is the source of new energy and development as well as long-active business owners, non-profit leaders, residents, and artists. Plans for the Soul City Gateways and accompanying streetscape interventions were informed by the Austin Coming Together Quality of Life Plan, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD)’s Soul City Framework Plan (2020), and the CDOT Chicago Avenue Corridor Improvement Project.

The City’s Soul City Corridor Development Framework Plan for the section of Chicago Avenue in the Austin neighborhood highlights the identity of the corridor as a center for Black art, music, food and entertainment. It identifies the corridor as a gateway to Chicago from suburbs to the west, and highlights redevelopment opportunities to make it a vibrant corridor. Neighborhood organizations and civic leaders, such as the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA ) recently selected as the Invest South/West Corridor Manager, recognize the Soul City Corridor’s potential as an economic and cultural driver for Chicago Avenue. A recently completed Quality of Life Plan “Austin Coming Together” ( ) also identifies Chicago Avenue as a critical commercial corridor.

Summaries and videos of CDOT’s previous public outreach on the Chicago Avenue Corridor Improvement project can be found on the project website at:   


Following the RFQ application deadline, DCASE will convene a selection panel of community representatives, arts professionals, and elected officials to review the applications. The committee will select 3-4 finalists, who will be commissioned to develop public art proposals. Finalists will present their design proposals to the selection panel and a final artist or artist team will be selected.

Applicants will be shortlisted based on a competitive review of the following:

   ·  Artistic excellence: demonstrated skill and quality craftsmanship in examples of past work; strength and originality of concept conveyed in the letter of interest.

   ·  Vision: Meaningful relationship of the proposed artwork with the goals and aspirations expressed by the Austin community.

   ·  Constructability: Proposal clearly presents design concepts in durable and/or permanent materials suitable for public and/or outdoor environments, and which require minimal to no maintenance


Finalists will be paid a $2,500 honorarium to develop conceptual proposals. 

The selected artist design fee will be $150,000, inclusive of all costs and fees for the artist to execute the design and provide coordination throughout structural engineering, fabrication, site preparation, and installation. The total budget for Gateways and identifiers construction and installation is $2,000,000.


* All dates are approximate.

RFQ open via CAFÉ online application system10/14/2211/13/22 by 11:59pm CST4

Artist Information Session, zoom. Register here:

Meeting will be recorded and posted.

10/27/22, 12-1PM CST 1
Review of qualifications11/14/2211/27/222
Committee selects 3-4 finalists11/28/2212/9/222
Notification of finalistsWeek of 12/12/22 1
CDOT kickoff meeting to discuss past community engagement and preferencesDecember 2022  
Finalists’ design development (CDOT kickoff, 50% and 100% milestones, and 2 community engagement sessions)12/12/222/12/238
Finalists’ presentationsWeek of 2/13/23 1
Artist/artist team awardedFebruary 2023  
Kick-off meetings with Public, DCASE, CDOT, CDOT consultantsMarch 2023  
Developed Design details (gateways + identifiers) dueApril 2023  
CDOT Review of designMay 2023  
Final Design details (gateways + identifiers)May 2023  
Shop drawing, fabrication and installation oversightJune 2023May 2024 
Estimated Substantial Construction Completion Date for the entire corridorSeptember 2024November 2024 


Deadline for submissions is Sunday November 13, 2022, 11:59pm, CST.


Each artist or artist team must submit an entirely digital application. 

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Applications should include:

   a)  A one (1) page letter of interest stating why the Soul City Gateways & Identifiers opportunity is meaningful and appropriate for the applicant’s work, as well as potential approach and initial conceptual ideas.

   b)  Six (6) to ten (10) total images of past large-scale public art and infrastructure projects developed by the artist or the artist team’s lead artist(s).

  c)  Optional: one (1) video, edited to no more than two (2) minutes in length, may also be submitted but is not required.

  d)  Annotated Image List: An annotated image list that includes the title, media, year completed, dimensions, location (if site-specific) project budget (if applicable) timeline, and client or commissioning entity for each corresponding image. 

           i. If a video is submitted, please include two (2) to three (3) sentences to describe its context.

           ii. Please note, the annotated image list may include thumbnails of submitted images but does not replace the need to upload individual image files in fulfillment of b) above.

   e  If applying as an artist team, a list of key team members and their roles/affiliations.

   f)  A one (1) to two (2) page resume or curriculum vitae (CV).

          i. If applying as an artist team, provide one (1) resume or CV for each member in one (1) pdf

QUESTIONS: Contact Brett Swinney at

Application Requirements

Each applicant must submit an entirely digital application in pdf or word doc file.  Incomplete applications will not be considered.  See above for application requirements.

Eligibility Criteria

This opportunity is open nationally to all professional artists and artist teams with demonstrated experience completing large-scale public art projects ; local artists and teams are highly encouraged to apply.