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DATE

2012 - 2015

THE 606 DESIGN TEAM

Collins Engineers
Frances Whitehead, Lead Artist
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Landscape

THE 606 PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

The Trust for Public Land
The Chicago Park District
The City of Chicago

COLLABORATORS

Adler Planetarium
USA National Phenologic Network
Morton Arboretum
Chicago Wildnerness Alliance
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

ENVISIONING THE 606

Commissioned as Lead Artist on the Design Team, Frances Whitehead has worked with Collins Engineers and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to envision the adaptation of The Bloomingdale, an unused, elevated rail line, and how the arts and culture can serve as an integrative framework for reimagined civic infrastructure. The multi-dimensional Arts Program converts an artifact of Chicago’s industrial heritage into a laboratory for new kinds of creative practices, linking art and life, nature and culture, and creating a new type of urban green-space.

Embedded Artworks double as park amenities, performance venues or sites for public learning.

The 2.7-mile, multiuse recreational trail and park system that stretches east to west through four neighborhoods on Chicago's Northwest Side includes the Bloomingdale Trail and six pocket parks to form The 606. An unprecedented public/private partnership on a major public greenway, The Trust for Public Land, City of Chicago, and the Chicago Park District form the Partnership collaboration for the project.

Fully “embedded” into the engineering and landscape design team, Whitehead has worked collaboratively to synthesize local site conditions with a broad range of contemporary art ideas to form a place-based, experiential approach. The concept that culture and sustainability are deeply linked underpins the arts strategies and creates the ethos of the Arts Program, which manifests “place” at multiple scales: local, bioregional, global and virtual. This “arts thinking” has generated plans for several hybrid sites and landscape features across the length of The 606. These “embedded artworks” double as park amenities, performance venues or sites for public learning.

ARTS INTEGRATION FOR THE 606

Whitehead's integrative approach extends the grassroots vision for the project, that The 606 be a "Living Work of Art." Begun as a neighborhood initiative, the project reflects a global mindset­–that we must better utilize existing assets, and that we must use our collective imagination to adapt and transform what is already built. This imaginative task shall involve the participation of diverse community members, public and private agencies, and a wide array of “creatives” of all types. As an example of these new creative opportunities the transformation of the rail artifact into the nation’s longest elevated park has catalyzed the Chicago community at all levels, reflecting the grassroots vision that The 606 become a “Living Work of Art”. As Lead Artist for The 606, Whitehead has served as cultural interpreter of this grassroots vision, helping to identify opportunities for other artists on The 606.

CULTURE + SUSTAINABILITY

This link between culture and sustainability is the basis for The 606 Arts foundational principles: Cultural Expression, Participation, Innovation, and Sustainability. These principles correspond to the four “pillars” or criteria that constitute the emerging global sustainability model, adding “culture” to the original “triple bottom line” of “social, economic, environmental” pillars respectfully. First proposed by Australian Jon Hawkes in 2001, the now well accepted “4 Pillar Model” has been adopted by organizations worldwide, recognizing the important role that cultural perspectives and diversity plays in shaping actions and decisions, expanding the role of artists in civic matters; artist as a new kind of problem solver.

Demonstrating the vital role that artists and the arts shall play in creating the city of the future.

The imperative voiced locally in the Community Vision corresponds to the urgency felt by artists and communities across the globe, to respond to climate, social conditions and culture change. The 606, as a laboratory for new practice and forum for conversation, addresses this urgency at a global scale, demonstrating the vital role that artists and the arts shall play in creating the city of the future.