City Cast

3 Questions With ‘Shore Land’ Artist

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on June 6
Two women lead a walking tour. One person holds a sign that says "Shoreland"

Artist JeeYeun Lee, in a gray jacket, leads a walk of her new project around the Museum of Contemporary Art in May. (Eric Perez)

Chicago’s shoreline is manmade. From Indiana to Evanston, the shoreline is built on landfill — debris, garbage, sand, and more.

But who does the shoreline belong to? That’s the question at the heart of artist JeeYeun Lee’s audio–walking project dropping this week.

Why did you embark on creating “Shore Land?”

It builds on a past project, ‘Whose Lakefront,’ which began when I was thinking about what it means for me as an immigrant from a place that was formally colonized to now be in the U.S.”

“I was reading and trying to learn about native people whose land Chicago was built on. In 1914, [the Pokagon band of Potawatomi tribe] was suing for the lakefront, arguing that anything that went into Lake Michigan itself was unceded territory.”

“It was unclear for a long time who actually had the right to the bed of Lake Michigan. Was it the city? Was it the state? Was it the feds?”

How has your relationship with the lakefront changed?

“It's so weird. I, too, enjoy the lakefront. I like the water, I like the beaches. I like the trail. But knowing what the ground is made up of and having that lawsuit in my mind, [being on the lakefront] is not easy and relaxing.”

What do you hope people take away from the project?

“The native people I interviewed, they talk about reciprocal relationships to nature: taking care of different aspects of our environment ensures that the environment can take care of us.”

A map of Chicago's shoreline shows landfill over time

Chicago’s map of land filled along the shoreline. (Dennis McClendon)

The first two parts will be out Thursday. A listening–walking event will go from Berger Park to Belmont Harbor Saturday followed by more episodes and walks this summer.

Hey Chicago

Want to know what's happening in Chicago? Sign up for our free newsletter, Hey Chicago. Packed with local news, curated event recs, local life hacks, and more, it's your daily toolkit for getting the most out of the city you love.

3 Questions With

See All