Massive new mural called ‘Mount Rushmore’ of inspiring Chicago women

CHICAGO -- A new mural on the side of the Chicago Cultural Center is being called Chicago's own Mount Rushmore, and it’s one of the largest pieces of public art ever installed in the city.

A 132-foot mural now wraps around the Chicago Cultural Center, turning what was once bare limestone into a testament to some of the city’s most influential women who shaped its culture, including Joan Gray, Lois Weisburg, Jackie Taylor and so many more.

"They are really the backbone, the spine, the spirit, the heart. They are really what it means to make culture in Chicago," artist Kerry James Marshall said at the mural's unveiling Monday.

The Chicago artist was paid a single dollar for his work. It's quite the bargain considering one of his recent paintings just sold for $5 million. It is the largest artwork he has ever designed or created, and it comes with a message: “If you think there’s something that needs to be done – go out and do it,” Marshall said.

Many of the women shown on the wall came to see their likeness Monday.

"It has nothing to do with me. I’m a metaphor for all of the women, all of the women from Oprah to Gwendolyn Brooks," said Barbara Gaines, Artistic Director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater. "We are symbols of having a dream and making them come true.”

Gaines praised the work, calling Marshall the "greatest living artist we have in the world today.”

According to Mayor Emanuel, 200 pieces of public art have been installed so far in 2017 during the city's 'Year of Public Art,' with a goal of making art free and easy to see. Murals adorn El stations and street corners, and now the side of the cultural center.

"This is half street, half alley. So we call it a 'stralley' right here. And he’s taken a basic stralley, and now given it its own greenery and beautiful space," Mayor Emanuel said Monday.

After the mural debuted, people stood in the street and on the sidewalk, gazing up and over their phones, finding inspiration in a stralley.

"First you have to dream the dream. Then you have to speak the dream. Then you have to make the dream. You have to make it happen,” the Renaissance Society's Susanne Ghez said, looking up at the mural.