Chicago Public Art: Portraits of Hope Partners with the General Services Administration to Make Downtown Chicago Building Bloom in Winter

Share Article

A vibrant street-fronting artwork for 212 South State Street is new addition to Chicago’s downtown.

Portraits of Hope - Chicago GSA Building

Portraits of Hope and GSA -- 212 South State Street

We're so happy to have this displayed on State Street, which will make our city's core here a vibrant, creative, beautiful landscape."

Ann Kalayil, GSA Regional Administrator, Great Lakes.

In its latest civic initiative, Portraits of Hope has teamed with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to visually energize the street-level façade of the GSA owned building at 212 South State Street in downtown Chicago. Traditional to Portraits of Hope projects nationwide, which directly involve children and youth in hospitals and schools in the creation of high-profile public artworks, the 212 South State Street project showcases the colorful brushstrokes of Chicago-area children from Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago and Kenwood Academy High School. Through their participation in the public art, creative therapy, and civic leadership program, the children completed 14 large-scale panels for the building window façade in a richly hued floral design. ( ).

One signature element of “212 South State Street” is that the artwork is intended to have different looks for day and nighttime viewing. Hand-painted on special translucent panels, the artwork glows at night when the mural is illuminated from within the building, producing a vibrant stained- glass effect, and making a sundown viewing a most unique sight. "We're so happy to have this displayed on State Street, which will make our city's core here a vibrant, creative, beautiful landscape," stated Ann Kalayil, GSA Regional Administrator for the Great Lakes.

Portraits of Hope founders and brothers Ed Massey and Bernie Massey led the sessions at Comer Children’s Hospital and Kenwood Academy, and were joined by GSA officials including Ann Kalayil, Great Lakes Regional Administrator, and LaDarius Curtis, Special Assistant to the Regional Administrator, as well as volunteers who came from as far away as New York City and Los Angeles. (GSA video: ).

Leif Elsmo, Executive Director of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center, and Comer's Child Life Department spearheaded the effort for the children's hospital, while overseeing Kenwood Academy's participation was Matt Milkowski, a Kenwood educator whose efforts helped maximize the educational experience for the students. Two of his students, D'Nia Griffin and Jylen Grayson, spoke poignantly at the dedication ceremony about what the project means to them: "We're really excited. It just feels good helping for a cause -- kids with handicaps and disabilities -- and not getting a reward for it makes it feel even better."

"The Chicago project brought together some terrific institutions and people, stated Bernie Massey. In addition to the kids, the programmatic activities, and the ultimate achievement, the experience working with the GSA was first-rate."

“212 South State Street” is a privately funded initiative made possible by Portraits of Hope with the generous support of individuals, businesses and foundations, and will be on exhibition through 2012.

Portraits of Hope conceives and develops high-profile motivational art projects that merge the production of dynamic public art works with creative therapy for hospitalized children and civic education for students of all ages. Portraits of Hope projects have served and involved thousands of youth and adults in major civic collaborations that have visually and spectacularly transformed everything from airplanes, buildings, and the New York City taxi fleet to blimps, tugboats, NASCAR race cars, and the Los Angeles beach lifeguard towers.

To meet the individual needs of children and adults with disabilities, Portraits of Hope has developed specialized painting brushes and techniques including telescope paint brushes for those in wheel chairs or connected to IVs, the shoe brushTM for individuals unable to manipulate a brush with their hands, and fruit-flavored mouth brushes for kids and adults with limited movement in their limbs. For persons visually impaired, Portraits of Hope utilizes special textured paints.

In schools, participants engage in interdisciplinary education sessions in which they assess, discuss, and communicate their thoughts on social issues affecting their communities and the world. The larger art collaboration – painting the panels for the building – is a group effort to demonstrate tangibly the power of teamwork and civic engagement.

The flower motif is a universal symbol of life, nature, the environment, youth, beauty, inspiration, and renewal. It is a design theme integral to Portraits of Hope. Geometric shapes are also core design elements in Portraits of Hope projects – as the young participants will be responsible for “shaping the future.”

To find out more about Portraits of Hope and “212 South State Street”, please contact Rob Brown at 310-474-5141 or go to


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Rob Brown

Email >
Visit website