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The 100-foot mural painted on the western side of the Chicago Cultural Center depicts 20 women who have shaped the cultural landscape of Chicago. The mural includes likenesses of literary icon Gwendolyn Brooks, Oprah Winfrey, Poetry Foundation founder Harriet Monroe, famed dancer Ruth Page, the City of Chicago's longest serving First Lady and cultural ambassador Maggie Daley, and many others.
The layout of these women is inspired by the grand granite faces of Mount Rushmore. On Mount Rushmore, there are four faces depicting U.S. presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. As important as these four presidents were to shaping America, the women in the mural also influence and shape Chicago’s culture. In the mural, Kerry James Marshall depicts a colorful scene of towering trees, with trunks that appear carved with the faces of women. Birds are flying, holding ribbons that have the women’s names. Marshall accepted only $1 for the work because he undertook the piece as a civic duty.
Kerry James Marshall is an American artist known for referencing African American culture and history. Painting in a Realist style, he depicts figures that celebrate black beauty and confront general racial stereotypes within contemporary American society.