Frances Whitehead is a civic practice artist bringing the methods, mindsets, and strategies of contemporary art practice to the process of shaping the future city. Connecting emerging art practices, the discourses around culturally informed sustainability, and new concepts of heritage and remediation, she develops strategies to deploy the knowledge of artists as change agents, asking, What do Artists Know? A series of linked civic initiatives include The Embedded Artist Project with the City of Chicago, SLOW Cleanup, a culturally driven phytoremediation program for abandoned gas stations, climate-monitoring plantings throughout the USA and Europe, and an urban agriculture plan with the City of Lima, Peru. Whitehead was the Lead Artist for The 606, a rail infrastructure adaptive reuse project in Chicago and continues to advise on the citizen science climate observation program as part of the art program.
Whitehead contributes regularly to discussions on art + sustainability including the 2015 EU COST Action Conference, Helsinki, and the Salzburg Global Seminar 2016. Currently she is working with the neighborhood of Emerson in Gary, Indiana on the Fruit Futures Initiative, to develop an urban agriculture and community orchard program.
Whitehead has exhibited widely, including the UN COP15 Copenhagen; The Museum of Arts/Design, NYC; Vinnistu Art Museum, Estonia; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Centrum Rzezby Polskiej, Oronsku; Brooklyn Museum of Art; and The Drawing Center. Citations include ART21:Blog, The New York Times, Carbon Arts Melbourne, Art/Design/Politics; Sculpture Magazine; Art in America, Artforum, Frieze, and Discovery Channel television.
Whitehead is Professor of Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she contributes to the Architecture program through courses in experimental urban practices.
Photo: Janeil Englestad + Chris Csikszentmihalyi