Traveling on the CTA's Green Line means looking at greystones and other classic buildings standing amidst vast tracts of vacant lots, most empty since the destruction of the 1960's riots.
On several of those vacant lots around Prairie and 53rd, Chicago artist Amanda Williams has created a remarkable installation of sprawling beds of 100,000 red tulips. Lovely in themselves, the work's title "Redefining Redlining" tips off its greater meaning, the long era where banks deliberately starved of investment the areas most in need of it.
"We're planting the tulips in the shape of houses that should exist, "Williams told the Chicago Sun-Times, adding that she also took her inspiration from Dutch tulip mania of the 1600s, a craze in which, at is peak, a single flower sold for the price of a house, before values collapsed.
Good bones" exist in the area's surviving buildings. Slowly, very slowly, new infill construction is filling in the gaps, but the emptiness remains. In Williams's flowerbeds, in its symbolism of past injustice expressed in visual delight, a terrible beauty is born, and a better future foreseen.