Vacant Lot on Chicago’s South Side to Become New Public Space Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

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Vacant Lot on Chicago’s South Side to Become New Public Space Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Open call for design concepts from Chicago-based artisans
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Vacant lot on Chicago’s South Side to become new public space courtesy of @SouthwestAir:
Monday, December 15, 2014 - 3:00pm

The University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life initiative and Office of Civic Engagement have received a grant from Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) to reimagine a vacant lot in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood and transform it into an active community gathering place. This project, which is commissioning design and production proposals from local artists, is located directly across from the University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator and will complement its focus on providing active and stimulating programming for people in South Side communities and throughout the Greater Chicago region.

This is the sixth project to be selected for a Heart of the Community grant. This competitive and collaborative program, in partnership with Project for Public Spaces, supports and revitalizes public spaces in the hearts of cities nationwide.

The vision for the new space in Washington Park will be created in partnership with the local community through placemaking – a movement and process rooted in community-based participation that involves the planning, design, management and programming of public spaces and capitalizes on a community's assets and potential to create vibrant destinations. Project for Public Spaces (PPS), the pioneering nonprofit organization behind placemaking, facilitated a series of workshops and events with the community over the summer to develop the preliminary vision for the new public space.

As a continuation of this Placemaking work with PPS, the Arts + Public Life initiative released an open call for artists to design and produce concepts for a suite of outdoor furniture which will be used in the new space. The proposals, which are due on January 18, 2015, will be evaluated and a local artisan will be chosen to complete the project in spring of 2015.

“We admire the University of Chicago’s efforts to leverage creativity and the arts to strengthen the local community,” said Megan Lee, Senior Manager of Community Outreach at Southwest Airlines. “Southwest Airlines recognizes the power public spaces have to transform communities and is excited to support the efforts to revitalize this space in Chicago, a city we’ve been serving for nearly 30 years and our number one airport in terms of departures.”  

The Arts Incubator, which opened in 2013, is a vibrant center of artistic activity and public programming and has brought new life to Garfield Boulevard. It is now home to a residency program, which supports artists in all disciplines whose work will impact the city’s cultural landscape, a design apprenticeship program for young people in the community and a rich array of public programs. Inspired by the vision of internationally recognized artist and urban planner Theaster Gates, director of Arts + Public Life at UChicago, the Incubator has already been the hub for dozens of events and thousands of attendees looking to further connect with the arts and their power to transform a community.

“My practice is rooted in the belief that the arts and culture can transform how we think about urban spaces, and drive change both by bringing in outside investment and by helping residents to reimagine what is possible in their communities,” said Gates. “The Heart of the Community grant will bolster the work already underway at the Arts Incubator, and bring new energy and vitality to Washington Park.”




About the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life initiative
Arts and Public Life builds creative connections on Chicago’s South Side through artist residencies, arts education, and artist-led projects and events. Public events and exhibitions led by resident and visiting artists, as well as campus and community partners, take place at the Arts Incubator, the Logan Center, and in the surrounding neighborhoods. These programs act as catalysts for collaboration and exchange, creating dynamic and critical creative spaces.

About the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement
Civic engagement interests and activities at the University of Chicago span our institution. The Office of Civic Engagement works with a wide range of University faculty, students, and staff from across the University, providing leadership, coordination, and support for engagement, as needed. And the Office of Civic Engagement provides a ready “front door” into the University to facilitate greater involvement between the University and individuals and organizations from the public, corporate, social, venture, philanthropic, research, and educational sectors.

About UChicago Arts
UChicago Arts is comprised of renowned museums, theaters, and film and music organizations; initiatives connecting the artists, scholars, and community both locally and globally; field-leading academic and research programs; and more than 60 student arts organizations at the University of Chicago, forging an integrative model for practice, presentation, and scholarship.

About Southwest Airlines Co.
In its 44th year of service, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) continues to differentiate itself from other air carriers with exemplary Customer Service delivered by nearly 46,000 Employees to more than 100 million Customers annually.  Southwest and wholly owned subsidiary AirTran Airways operate more than 3,400 flights a day, serving 93 destinations across the United States and five additional countries.  Subject to government approvals, Southwest service to San Jose, Costa Rica (from Baltimore/Washington), begins in March 2015; service to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (from Orange County/Santa Ana), begins in June 2015; and service to Belize City begins in October 2015 (from Houston (Hobby)).

Based on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent data, Southwest Airlines is the nation's largest carrier in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded. The Company operates the largest fleet of Boeing aircraft in the world, the majority of which are equipped with satellite-based WiFi providing gate to gate connectivity while over the United States.  That connectivity enables Customers to use their personal devices to access streaming music provided by Beats Music or to view video on-demand movies and television shows, as well as nearly 20 channels of free, live TV compliments of DISH.  Southwest is the only major U.S. airline to offer Bags Fly Free® (first and second checked pieces of luggage, size and weight limits apply), and there are never change fees, although fare differences might apply. In September 2014, the airline proudly unveiled Heart, a new aircraft livery, airport experience, and logo, showcasing the dedication of Southwest Employees to connect Customers with what’s important in their lives.

From its first flights on June 18, 1971, Southwest Airlines launched an era of unprecedented affordability in air travel described by the U.S. Department of Transportation as "The Southwest Effect," a lowering of fares and increase in passenger traffic wherever the carrier serves. With 41 consecutive years of profitability, Southwest is one of the most honored airlines in the world, known for a triple bottom line approach that contributes to the carrier's performance and productivity, the importance of its People and the communities they serve, and an overall commitment to efficiency and the planet. The 2013 Southwest Airlines One Report™ can be found at

Book Southwest Airlines' low fares online at or by phone at 800-I-FLY-SWA.

Media Contacts:
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About Project for Public Spaces
Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Its pioneering Placemaking approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs. PPS was founded in 1975 to apply and expand on the work of William (Holly) Whyte, the author of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Since then, the organization has completed projects in over 3000 communities in 43 countries and all 50 US states and are the premier center for best practices, information and resources on Placemaking.

Keywords: Finance & Socially Responsible Investment | Heart of the Community | Placemaking | Southwest Airlines | The University of Chicago | Volunteerism & Community Engagement | public space