The Neighborhood Tourism Print Series

The Chicago Neighborhood Tourism print series draws inspiration from the art created during the WPA’s Federal Art Project, showcasing various recognizable buildings, parks, structures and architectural details found within Chicago’s diverse landscape. The purpose of the original WPA prints (1934–1943) was to stir the public's imagination for education, theater, health, safety, and travel, while the Neighborhood Tourism series has a similar, but slightly different goal: allow Chicagoans to take pride in their past or present neighborhoods, all while exposing everyone else to a part of the city that they might not have known before through simple, iconic illustrations.

One of the original WPA designs, created in 1938.

One of the original WPA designs, created in 1938.

The Historic Designs

The WPA’s Federal Art Project employed thousands of artists to create paintings, public art, photography, silkscreened posters, and more during the late 30s and early 40s. It is estimated that there were over 35,000 posters designed during this time (with over 2 million prints actually produced), and they were used to promote everything from education to the arts, public health to travel.

The most iconic posters were those created to honor the beauty contained within many of the nation’s national parks. 14 parks were featured, including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Zion, and 100 prints of each of these parks were produced. Unfortunately, only 41 of the 1,400 prints have survived, and two of the original designs, Wind Cave and the Great Smoky Mountains, have been completely lost.

The Chicago Designs

The first neighborhood to be released in the series was Logan Square in 2013. I have no real attachment to Logan Square, but I wanted to test out this illustration style with a design that I thought wouldn’t be too complicated. I enjoyed creating the first one so much that I started working on the next one, Beverly, almost immediately. From there the series steadily grew, with a new print being released every few months. The series stands at over 30 different prints now, and it will continue to grow until I run out of ideas or time.

Most of the prints in the Neighborhood Tourism series are heavily influenced by the WPA’s National Parks designs, but there are a few outliers. For example, the Wicker Park and Kenwood prints are based more on the Art Deco architecture of the buildings featured in the art, while the the Fall and Summer seasonal prints take cues from vintage travel posters from the same era. The one thing that ties all of the designs in the series together is the “Chicago Neighborhoods Seal,” which features the four stars from our flag, as well as a cow, which not only references the city’s well known place in history as a meat-processing heavyweight, but also the mythical “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow,” which supposedly started the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

The “official” seal of the Chicago Neighborhoods Project.

The “official” seal of the Chicago Neighborhoods Project.

Suggestions for future designs?

I am always looking for suggestions of neighborhoods to include in the series. If you have an idea of what to feature, or any other thoughts, please feel free to get in touch.