Edgar Miller’s Animal Court is an enchanting seven-piece public sculpture and a stellar example of art and design facilitated by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the largest federal agency created in 1938 to provide jobs and income for unemployed Americans. The beloved sculptures were central to the design of the Jane Addams Homes, Chicago’s first integrated public housing project, and site of the National Public Housing Museum. From 1938-2006, they helped to create a gathering place in the courtyard, where people crossed boundaries of race and class to gather and build community.
Edgar Miller, the innovative, multi-disciplinary artist who represents many of the best ideals of Chicago’s commitment to accessible art for the people, recognized public housing as a platform for expressing democratic ideals and as a space for experimentation through art and design. Together with the will of Chicago’s Near West Side neighbors, the National Public Housing Museum honors the memories of the sculptures by restoring and interpreting them with an innovative oral history project and audio tour, the basis for a forthcoming digital exhibition exploring the history and impact of the sculptural works.f