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It was a beautiful, sunny day here in Chicago, perfect for a civic event to celebrate public art!

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the unveiling of the Chicago Picasso in Daley Plaza, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events organized a “restaging” of the original 1967 event as part of the city’s 2017 Year of Public Art Chicago initiative.

On August 15, 1967, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra participated in the unveiling, with Seiji Ozawa—then music director of the Ravinia Festival—conducting works by Bernstein and Gershwin. At today’s event, the After School Matters Orchestra, under the direction of Howard Sandifer, performed the opening of Gershwin’s An American in Paris and the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5. Josephine Lee led the Chicago Children’s Choir in The Star-Spangled Banner, just as the Englewood Neighborhood Corps Youth Choir (as the CCC was then known) had done at the original event.

Howard Sandifer and the After School Matters Orchestra

Josephine Lee and the Chicago Children’s Choir

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Picasso

Following several speakers—including Nora Brooks Blakely, daughter of Gwendolyn Brooks, who read an original poem at the 1967 unveiling—Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressed the crowd. He called the original dedication of the sculpture a “critical inflection point in Chicago’s story” that would go on to inspire other public art in the city. “It is called ‘Everyone’s Picasso’ because it belongs to all of us.”

Civic Center Plaza, August 15, 1967

Daley Plaza, August 8, 2017

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August 15, 1967

August 15, 1967

On August 15, 1967, more than 50,000 Chicagoans gathered to witness the unveiling of what would quickly become an iconic landmark. “With applause, startled exclamations, and incredulous smiles, Chicago received its long-awaited gift yesterday from the most celebrated of living artists,” wrote Edward Barry in the Chicago Tribune. “Shortly after noon, Mayor Daley pulled the cord which controlled the coverings of Pablo Picasso’s untitled steel sculpture in the Civic Center Plaza. The sheets billowed to the ground. There, looming against the sky and against the glass and steel of the Civic Center,* was a huge, rust-colored object calculated to baffle the mind and stir the imagination.”

Chicago Tribune, August 16, 1967

Chicago Tribune, August 16, 1967

Architect William E. Hartmann served as master of ceremonies and read a telegram from President Lyndon B. Johnson: “Your new Civic Center Plaza with its unique and monumental sculpture by one of the acknowledged geniuses of modern art is a fitting addition to a city famous for its creative vitality. Chicago, which gave the world its first skyscraper and America some of our greatest artists and poets, has long recognized that art, beauty, and open space are essential. . . . You have demonstrated once again that Chicago is a city second to none.”

The Englewood Neighborhood Corps Youth Choir led the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner, representatives of multiple faiths pronounced invocations, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks read a poem written especially for the occasion, and Seiji Ozawa led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Gershwin’s An American in Paris along with Bernstein’s Overture to Candide and excerpts from the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.

*The building was renamed Richard J. Daley Center on December 27, 1976, seven days after the mayor’s death.

This article also appears here.

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A wonderful end to a beautiful tour! The last stop on the CSO’s 2017 West Coast Tour was Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Last night, Maestro Riccardo Muti and the CSO performed Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 and No. 3.  Photos by @toddrphoto. #CSOonTour

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