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Obama Foundation Announces First Piece in Series of Commissioned Art for Obama Presidential Center

February 28, 2022 at 6:00 AM CST

‘Book Bird’ Sculpture by Chicago Artist Richard Hunt to be placed in the Reading Garden of the Chicago Public Library Branch at the Center

Today the Obama Foundation announced its first commissioned piece of art will come from world-renowned artist, Richard Hunt, who grew up in Chicago. Hunt’s sculpture, “Book Bird,” will be placed in the Library Reading Garden outside of the new Chicago Public Library branch on the Obama Presidential Center campus. ‘Book Bird’ will depict a bird taking flight from a book to illuminate how reading and learning allows readers to enter new places and fly free.

Hunt, who was born and raised in Woodlawn on Chicago’s South Side, was greatly influenced by his mother, an artist and librarian. Hunt spent much of his childhood enjoying museums and opera performances, fostering his passion for the arts. As an alum of Englewood High School, he later attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he began his groundbreaking career. He received distinguished recognition and numerous accolades, including being the first African-American artist to have a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“We believe art is a powerful mechanism to discover our common ground, as well as inspire and empower our visitors to be change agents in their communities,” said Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett. “Building on the legacy of President and Mrs. Obama’s commitment to arts education during their time in the White House, we seek to elevate the arts while bolstering the representation of diverse artists. Mr. Hunt’s personal story and creative vision embodies the uplifting experience visitors will find at the Center. Having known Richard most of my life, we are so proud to honor his work here.”

“Part of what makes Chicago a world-class city is its cultural and artistic institutions, and we hope that the Obama Presidential Center will be viewed as part of this amazing tapestry of institutions,” said President Obama in a new video. “We want to be a living, breathing center of activity, and a place where people can gather and learn and debate and connect and be inspired. And art does that.”

The branch of the Chicago Public Library will feature interactive digital media spaces and amenities for youth, informational and vocational resources for adults, and a reading room. The Library Reading Garden will be an intimate space where youth can read and escape to new places through literature.

In the months ahead, the Obama Foundation will announce additional commissioned works from a diverse group of artists.

The Obama Presidential Center broke ground in September 2021 and is expected to be completed by 2025.


Contact: Courtney D. Williams, [email protected]