Community Architexts, a non-profit arts organization, developed and implemented a public design program within the depressed commercial district along Chicago Avenue in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. The program was intended to collect and articulate the collective public voice of the largely invisible community of mothers, daughters, and caregivers in this inner city neighborhood. Each sign is inscribed with quotes drawn from outreach discussions on the roles of African-American women, designed to draw attention to the myths and stereotypes held by the outside community. The underlying objective was to uncover how the concept of the nuclear family – the centerpiece of American ideology – affects a community in which these expectations are not fulfilled. The three-stage public design program appropriated and adapted a number of abandoned sign structures atop small businesses along the streetscape. The double-sided sign structures carry large-scale declaratives – readable from cars passing through – which primarily speak to the outside community. Layered beneath and extending below are longer statements – directed to local pedestrians – which primarily speak to the community itself. The declaratives read as highlighted sound bites, appropriating a mass media trope on behalf of the local neighborhood.
"These signs add the eloquent voices of neighborhood residents to the gritty cacophony of a typical downtrodden urban street. The process of generating the signs' content was itself a positive contribution to the community. The signs' design vocabulary supports the idea of conversation and multiple voices with its overlapping and intersecting planes. The typographic style and colors share just enough of the visual character of surrounding commercial vernacular signage so that the signs fit in – and distinguish themselves as well."
BJ Krivanek (Principal in Charge)