Public Works: Jetty by Barry Tinsley

A thousand feet from the entrance to the Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center, a large-scale work of public art is installed in front of 24th District Police Station at 6464 North Clark Street.

Jetty by Barry Tinsley is 48 feet long, 12 feet wide, and up to 15 feet high, made of COR-TEN steel. The work was commissioned, designed, and installed for the location as the first public work under the Chicago Percent-for-Art Ordinance in 1980. In 1978, Tinsley had installed a work of similar scale and material in Glencoe, entitled Break Water.

During the same year that Break Water was installed in the northern suburbs, the City Council in Chicago adopted the Percent-for-Art into the municipal code, after a concerted advocacy effort by the Chicago Artists' Coalition. (1) The Percent-for-Art Ordinance stipulates that 1.33% of the costs for building or renovating municipal buildings be budgeted for public artworks that will be housed on site. A key provision of the ordinance stipulates that at least half of the works must be commissioned from Chicago artists.

Tinsley's work was installed in January 1980, followed by four other works in the same year: an untitled steel sculpture by Amir Nour at 2255 East 103rd Street; Rescue by Jill Parker at 4001 West West End Avenue; Riverview by Jerry Peart at 2452 West Belmont Avenue; and Reaching Children/Touching People, a mural by William Walker at 975 East 132nd Street. (2)

Following the relatively pastoral setting of Break Water, Tinsley's Jetty is crouched within the confines of what the artist refers to as "the tight confines of the urban jungle of Chicago." The work, despite it's substantial size and footprint, is nearly camouflaged by the close brown-red brink walls of the police station, a color scheme the weathering metal complements closely. The sculpture juts and recedes, angling between extremes imposing and invisible. Traveling east on Schreiber Avenue or south on Clark Street, one has to turn their head 90° (or more) to catch sight of it, but if you approach heading west on Schreiber or north on Clark – especially on foot – it's massive and striking.

The Public Art Collection of Chicago has more 700 works of art installed in 150+ municipal facilities across the city. (3) Take a walk down the block east of CIADC sometime this spring and check out the first work of Percent-for-Art and let us know what your favorite public works are in the comments below!