Chicago Celebrates 50 Years of ‘Everyone’s Picasso’ with Music and More

By Stephen Raskauskas |

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Chicago celebrates "Everyone's Picasso" on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 in Daley Plaza

One of Chicago's most iconic landmarks is an unnamed sculpture by Pablo Picasso that stands 50 feet tall in Daley Plaza, located in the heart of downtown. It may be surprising that the artist didn't name his first large-scale civic sculpture (it weighs 162 tons!) and one the most imposing works he ever created.

For 50 years, the sculpture, known simply as the Chicago Picasso, has delighted and baffled passersby. What is it? A human? A baboon? A horse? Something else entirely? The artist never revealed his inspiration. But, when the sculpture was originally unveiled in 1967, WFMT's own Studs Terkel asked Chicagoans what they thought of the city's latest piece of public art and received a wide range of reactions.

unveiling of the Chicago Picasso

The unveiling of the Chicago Picasso (Photo courtesy DCASE)

Fifty years later, we at WFMT wanted to see how Chicagoans feel about the Picasso statue in Daley Plaza today. So we attended Everyone's Picasso, a restaging of the original dedication ceremony, presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which took place on Tuesday, August 8, 2017.

Many civic leaders, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, were present at the event, as well as attendees of the original dedication ceremony in 1967. And what celebration would be complete without music? The crowd gathered at Daley Plaza enjoyed musical performances by the Chicago Children's Choir, which performed at the original ceremony, and the After School Matters Orchestra, which played one of the same works presented by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1967.

Musicians of the After School Matters Orchestra perform at "Everyone's Picasso"

The Chicago Children's Choir performs at "Everyone's Picasso"

WFMT teamed up with teens from YouMedia, a Chicago Public Library initiative training the media professionals of tomorrow, to ask attendees at Everyone's Picasso what they think of the statue. Watch their reactions in the video below.

As soon as the celebration ended, some attendees decided that the Chicago Picasso should return to one of its current primary purposes: a slide. The statue truly is everyone's Picasso.

True to purpose, children enjoy sliding down the Chicago Picasso moments after "Everyone's Picasso" celebration ends

Collaborative arts programming is made possible by the Richard and Mary L. Gray Artistic Collaboration Fund.