‘The Shape of Chicago: John Massey’s 1968 Banners Revisited’ Celebrates Chicago Designer

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 Congress Parkway 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.

“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.

1968 John Massey Banners/Photo Credit: John Massey

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.

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.”

“As we celebrate Chicago’s rich art and design history through Art Design Chicago this year, it couldn’t be more appropriate to also celebrate John Massey—one of Chicago’s great designers and an integral contributor to our city’s creative legacy,” said Amy Zinck, executive vice president of the Terra Foundation for American Art. “John has a keen understanding of the interplay between design and civic responsibility, which is reflected in his many generous gifts to the city. His 1968 banner project is as fresh today as it was 50 years ago, and we’re thrilled to help introduce a new generation of Chicagoans to his extraordinary work.”

“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 the Chicago Design Museum. “Though the banners are timeless, a group of third grade students from Mrs. Blake’s class at Philip D. Armour Elementary School gave 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.

About Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation

The Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation is a 501(c)(3) affiliate organization that pushes the limits of what a downtown can be for its residents, workers and visitors. The Foundation seeks to enrich the Loop’s public spaces through artistic expression and free cultural programming. By building a connection between people and the places they share, the Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation hopes to create an inclusive downtown environment that fosters creativity and enhances the Loop’s appeal to the people and businesses that are a part of it.

About Art Design Chicago

Art Design Chicago is a spirited celebration of the unique and vital role Chicago plays as America’s crossroads of creativity and commerce. Spearheaded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this citywide partnership of more than 75 cultural organizations explores Chicago’s art and design legacy and continued impact with more than 30 exhibitions, hundreds of events, as well as the creation of several scholarly publications and a four-part documentary presented through 2018.

Support for Art Design Chicago is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and Presenting Partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Additional funding for the initiative is provided by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Joyce Foundation. The Chicago Community Trust, Leo Burnett, Polk Bros. Foundation and EXPO CHICAGO are providing in-kind support. #ArtDesignChicago

About the Terra Foundation for American Art

Since it was established in 1978, the Terra Foundation for American Art has been one of the leading foundations focused on the historical art of the United States. Headquartered in Chicago, it is committed to fostering exploration, understanding and enjoyment of American art among national and international audiences. To further cross-cultural dialogue on American art, the foundation supports and collaborates on innovative exhibitions, research and educational programs. Implicit in such activities is the belief that art has the potential both to distinguish cultures and to unite them. The foundation also provides opportunities for interaction and study through the presentation and ongoing development of its own art collection in Chicago, recognizing the importance of experiencing original works of art. www.TerraAmericanArt.org

About the Chicago Design Museum

ChiDM strengthens design culture and builds community by facilitating the exchange of knowledge through dynamic experiences. Through exhibitions, public and private programs, digital media and workshops, the museum facilitates an open conversation about design across disciplines and borders. ​We believe design has the capacity to fundamentally improve the human condition, and strive to make it accessible to everyone through a public space in the Chicago Loop.

About the 2018 Year of Creative Youth

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events have designated 2018 as the “Year of Creative Youth” – a citywide celebration of Chicago’s young artists and the mentors who inspire them. As part of the Year of Creative Youth, Chicago’s new Creative Youth Festival on Saturday, Sept. 22, across the Millennium Park Campus will showcase young artists in dance, theater, music, spoken word, the visual arts and more. Admission to the festival is free, and the schedule will be announced soon. Presented by Allstate Insurance Company, the Year of Creative Youth will also feature young artists and their work at City of Chicago festivals, exhibitions and events throughout the year. For more information about the Year of Creative Youth, visit www.cityofchicago.org/yocy—and join the conversation on Facebook (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), Twitter @ChicagoDCASE and Instagram @ChicagoDCASE #2018isYOCY #ChiCreativeYouth #BornCreative.