Brothers Bernie and Ed Massey Reveal That Portraits of Hope Eyes More Water Projects Including Chicago’s Bridges

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Public and urban art for iconic settings.

As a follow-up to “The Spheres at MacArthur Park,” the massive Portraits of Hope public art and civic project that saw 3,000 large and colorful spheres float at the historic downtown Los Angeles lake, Portraits of Hope is setting its sights on concepts and proposals for next generation water projects including for Chicago and D.C. The new concepts also involve focal points in both cities and could begin as soon as the respective jurisdictions give the green light. The most developed of Portraits of Hope’s next generation of water projects is for Chicago and involves Chicago’s iconic bridges.

These Portraits of Hope concepts are a continuation of the program’s large-scale, national projects which have brightened and visually transformed public settings and symbols ranging from the NYC taxi fleet, blimps, planes, lakes and buildings to LA’s coastal lifeguard towers, race cars, laundromats/lavanderias, and frontline fire and rescue vehicles by working with organizations from NASA to NASCAR.

The Chicago Bridges project, entitled, “Lifting Spirits,” would be a privately funded Portraits of Hope public art and civic initiative that would culminate in a temporary installation of vibrant, all-weather, tarpaulin material on the undercarriages of up to 18 Chicago Loop bridges for a six-month exhibition. As a Portraits of Hope project, the initiative would directly involve 9,000+ children and adults in Chicago-area hospitals, schools, after-school programs, and social service groups. The project scale, scope, and geography falls under both the city and federal jurisdiction. To date, The Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Coast Guard have signed off on the proposed Portraits of Hope initiative.

The public exhibition would be unprecedented in that the exhibition – involving up to 175,000 sq. ft. of underside bridge surface area – would retain and maintain the current Chicago city street vistas and above ground views on most days. However, and enticingly, for a few special hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays, during Spring and Summer, when the respective moveable bridges are raised sequentially, the erect undersides would reveal vibrant, hand-painted, Portraits of Hope color fields, painted by children and adults from more than 100 hospitals, schools, social service, and civic institutions participating in the project.

ARUP engineers – who have been instrumental in several previous Portraits of Hope civic projects -- are spearheading the technical solutions process with the CDOT.

In utilizing the undersides of the moveable bridges, and directly involving more than 9,000 youngsters and adults, the project, “Lifting Spirits,” would create a temporary – though high-profile – public artwork that would make for never-before views for Chicago residents and visitors alike. (see Chicago images attached to release).

For those viewers wanting an up-close, around-the-clock, look of the artwork, they would only need to descend below bridge level on the river and look upwards at the bridge bottoms from recreational boats, barges, and touring ferries. On land, bike riders, joggers and walkers on the Chicago River Walk would have exclusive below street-surface views of the civic artwork.

Traditional to Portraits of Hope projects; the paintings would be painted off-site, on all-weather exterior tarpaulins. The artwork would be hand-painted in the traditional 14-color palette art themes evidenced in the program’s public projects. For the temporary exhibition, the soft-material paintings would be fastened to the steel under-structure of each bridge.

The programmatic phase of the project – which would include the creation of the art panels for the bridges – would begin months prior to the installation. The program sessions would be implemented directly at schools, hospitals, and other youth service and civic locations.

As part of the structured programmatic sessions that precede the installation, the youth – most who would engage through their educational institutions – would participate in interdisciplinary civic education activities that allow them to express their views on local and national issues and to recognize the importance of teamwork and broad cooperation in effecting positive change in their communities.

For children in hospitals and persons undergoing treatments for disabilities, the project would serve as creative therapy, and attention would be focused on the activities associated with the creation of the collaborative artwork.

Backstory: In 2012 at the conclusion of a Portraits of Hope Chicago project with the General Services Administration (GSA), Ed Massey was walking in downtown Chicago when suddenly one of the bridges arose. At that moment, an idea and concept was born. Ed shared his vision with GSA who made introductions and connected Ed with City of Chicago officials who he briefed about the concept for a major public art and civic project involving Chicago’s bridges and thousands of its kids. That started the ongoing process for many conversations and meetings and which are part of every major POH project from coast to coast.

Details on the proposed D.C. project will be announced soon.

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About Portraits of Hope:

Portraits of Hope, a 501 (c)(3) program, develops high-profile motivational art and civic projects that merge the production and exhibition of dynamic public art with creative therapy for hospitalized children, civic education for students in schools, and community engagement opportunities for people of all ages. Founded by brothers Ed Massey and Bernie Massey, the Portraits of Hope program is aimed at enriching the lives of children and adults - many who may be coping with serious illness, disabilities, adversity, or socio-economic challenges - through their participation in creative, educational, high-profile, one-of-a-kind projects. Portraits of Hope has involved tens of thousands of children and adults in huge civic collaborations - in the U.S. and abroad – that have visually transformed everything from airplanes, lakes, buildings, tugboats, and the New York City taxi fleet to LA’s coastal lifeguard towers, race cars, blimps, laundromats/lavanderias, and frontline fire and rescue vehicles, by working with organizations from NASA to NASCAR. More than 1,000 hospitals, schools, and social service agencies have directly participated in Portraits of Hope projects in addition to a broad array of adult civic groups.

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