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Larger than life: CS faculty participate in public art project in downtown Chicago

Chicago Design Through the Decades projected onto theMART

Three UIC faculty members, including Professor Daria Tsoupikova and Assistant Professor Fabio Mirandafrom UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), and the School of Design’s Professor Sharon Oiga, can see their work on display nightly, as part of a larger-than-life public art installation downtown.

Chicagoans and visitors can enjoy Chicago Design Through the Decades, a project credited to Tsoupikova, Oiga, and Guy Villa Jr. of Columbia College Chicago, from the Chicago Riverwalk each evening through December 30.

The display is part of Art on theMART, a public art project that features moving, digital art across the façade of theMART, a two-block long 1930s building along Chicago’s Riverwalk. It is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, with a 2.5-acre canvas.

Images are created by 24, 30,000-lumen projectors and beamed across the river onto the building façade. According to the Art on theMART website, the images are projected via 3-channel 3D architectural mapping and then blended to create a seamless image.

About the exhibit

Chicago Design Through the Decades is a journey through the last hundred years of the history of Chicago design and is based on the collection of the Chicago Design Archive, a permanent online record of design in the city. The archive currently holds thousands of examples of work from over 1,100 Chicago designers, including posters, books, and other publications, with works from the 1820s to the present day.

“What we intended through the project is the human-centered approach, how the key characters and depictions of characters changed throughout the decades,” Tsoupikova said. “For the last decade, the 2020s, we used machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to design animated renderings.”

Miranda provided the algorithms used in creating the final image, which is a tribute to Chicago as the home of neural networks. In 1943 Warren McCulloch, a neuroscientist at UIC, and Walter Pitts, a University of Chicago logician, proposed the first mathematical model of neural network, which is the foundation of contemporary machine learning.

“We developed the project to promote Chicago design as art, and Chicago the city as the center of modern design,” Tsoupikova said. “It’s really exciting, it’s a collaboration between design and computer science.”

Potential for student collaboration

Tsoupikova said the project also signifies the future for CS + Design students. The major debuted in Fall of 2022 and UIC is the only public university that offers the undergraduate degree. Current students were invited to attend the November 18 opening of Chicago Design Through the Decades.

“It was inspiring for the students as an example of one of the venues they could collaborate in,” Tsoupikova said. “If we plan another project with theMart it would be really exciting to have junior or senior CS + Design students participate in the future.”

Event details

The best place to view the exhibit is from the Riverwalk (at Wacker Drive), so the accompanying music can be heard. The program runs twice nightly, at 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., through December 30.

The Chicago Design Through the Decades project included contributions from:

Daria Tsoupikova, UIC School of Design & UIC Electronic Visualization Laboratory
Sharon Oiga, UIC School of Design & Chicago Design Archive
Guy Villa Jr, Columbia College Chicago
Krystofer Kim, NASA
Jack Weiss, Chicago Design Archive
Cheri McIntyre, Chicago Design Archive
Lauren Meranda, Chicago Design Archive
AI/ML contribution by Fabio Miranda, UIC Electronic Visualization Laboratory
Music by Louis Schwadron, Sky White Sound
Featuring vocalist/activist: Nnelolo Karen Wilson-Ama’Echefu, and rapper Elijah Robb

The exhibit is dedicated to Wayne Stuetzer (1938–2020), a founder and director of the Chicago Design Archive.