Olivia Gude is an artist and educator who has worked in the field of community public art for 25 years and has created over 50 large-scale mural and mosaic projects, often working with inter-generational groups, teens, elders, and children. She has created major works in Los Angeles; Madison, Wisconsin; Covington, Kentucky; and DeKalb, Illinois as well as numerous projects in the Chicago area.
Gude is an Associate Professor in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has participated in the Illinois Arts Council Artist-in-Residency program since 1992. Gude is a member of the Senior Artist Circle of the Chicago Public Art Group and is the editor of the CPAG website.
In 1999-2000, Gude was appointed a Great Cities Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago to develop the Contemporary Community Curriculum Initiative. In this project, supported by the Chicago Community Trust and the Illinois Arts Council, high school art teachers collaboratively developed curriculum based on postmodern art and community issues. In 1999, Professor Gude received an Illinois Alliance for Arts Education Service Award for her contributions to the field of art education.
Gude is the Founder and Director of the Spiral Workshop, an innovative Saturday art program in which teens study and make contemporary art. In 2002, Professor Gude launched the Spiral Art Education Website, which publishes innovative art projects developed through the CCC and Spiral Workshop programs. Since its inception, the site has received over 100,000 visitors. Visit this site at http://spiral.aa.uic.edu
Olivia Gude has published many articles and book chapters on community art and art education. Her writing has in appeared in Public Art Review, Art Journal, Art Education: the Journal of the National Art Education Association, Feminist Studies Journal, and in the SUNY Press book Cultural Activisms: Poetic Voices, Political Voices. Urban Art Chicago: a Guide to Community Murals, Mosaics, and Sculptures, (2000) written with Jeff Huebner, is the first book devoted to Chicago community public art.
Olivia Gude frequently presents lectures and workshops on the transformation of art education, community public art practices, and on her own work as a collaborative public artist, in university and museum settings, including the University of British Columbia, the University of Georgia, California College of Arts and Crafts, Everson Museum in NY, and Cary Visual Arts in North Carolina. Olivia Gude has been the keynote speaker for state art education conferences in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan.
Combining contemporary art and critical theory practices with the Chicago community mural tradition, I have sought to further develop a form of public art located within and "owned" by the community, an art that has the potential to create discussions about the contradictions of civic and personal life in complex times.
Many of my public art projects involve weaving together the diverse images contributed by members of a community design group. The aim is not to create a seamless whole, but rather to develop an aesthetic medium in which multiple points of view represent, not fractured traditionalism, but rather the postmodern valuing of difference and multiplicity.
As a painter I have sought to revitalize the street mural form by making pieces that accentuate a painterly quality and use large scale as a means of creating color fields that engulf the viewer in a sensual experience of hue and texture. Based on the brushwork of my mural Before the Game: Eternal Practice in Los Angeles and my interest in the kinetic, body-based marks of spray can artists, I have explored creating images out of distinct diagonal strokes in sharply contrasting hues.
I have been working to extend the street mural form to incorporate oral history, quotations, and poetry created out of everyday language. In pieces such as the mural, Where We Come From...Where We're Going, and the banner project, Echoes of the Heart, many individual voices make up the text of the works. I am interested in further developing this theme of heteroglossia (many voices) in public art.
I am interested in the permanence of mosaics as a symbol of a community’s endurance and strength. In my mosaic work, I create strong tensions between abstraction and realism by using a fairly large “pixel” of mosaic tile. I incorporate complex patterns and handmade ceramic elements generated by community volunteers to clearly showcase the collective creation of the artwork.
As a young artist I was given the gift of being initiated into a tradition of community muralists that stretches back to the Wall of Respect. Thus, an important part of my artistic practice has been and will continue to be identifying and mentoring emerging artists from the diverse neighborhoods of Chicago and from around the country—introducing these artists to the possibility of creating artwork in a public medium that is both experimental and connected to community.