In 1967, when Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley pulled a cord unwrapping 1,200 square feet of fabric from a reddish orange sculpture in what is now Daley Plaza, he called Picasso’s sculpture a “gift to the city,” and diplomatically said, “We dedicate this celebrated work this morning with the belief that what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow.”

Forty-five years later, the Picasso is both familiar and a beloved Chicago landmark.

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Forest Park art-lovers can learn about the worlds of Pablo Picasso and turn-of-the-20th-century Parisian art as Riverside art historian Jeff Mishur speaks at the Forest Park Public Library, 7555 Jackson Blvd. at 7 p.m.

Mishur’s lecture is a kickoff to the upcoming Art Institute of Chicago’s Picasso exhibit.

Both Mishur’s lecture and the upcoming Art Institute exhibit will address the famous sculpture in Daley Plaza. The sculpture appeared alien and strange, and initially incited confusion and controversy among Chicago citizens. Prior to the work, public art in Chicago had been traditionalist and commemorative, Mishur said. The new work was ambiguous and without any obvious narrative. Many simply considered it an eyesore, Mishur noted.

However, as the civic populace warmed up to it in the decades following, The Picasso helped set the stage for similar modernist works. Now, it stands as a symbol of modernist architecture throughout Chicago, a clear complement to the downtown Chicago backdrop.

“My lecture provides an overview of Picasso’s career with an emphasis on the variety of styles he practiced,” Mishur said. He will discuss blue period works such as The Old Guitarist, cubist works such as the Ladies of Avignon and later works such as Guernica. “My goal is to demonstrate there is such variety in Picasso’s body of work, that there is something for everybody.”

The Art Institute’s upcoming Picasso exhibition runs Feb. 20 – May 12. The exhibition celebrates Chicago’s 100-year relationship with the innovative Spanish artist. The institute will bring together over 250 examples of Picasso’s paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and ceramics from private collections in the city, as well as from the museum’s collection. This will be the first large-scale Picasso exhibition organized by the museum in almost 30 years.

Mishur’s Riverside-based company, Art Excursions, Inc., guides groups and individuals through museums and art galleries across the country. Since 1998, Jeff and wife Michelle Paluch-Mishur have created tailor-made tours and educational slide lectures. Jeff has a master’s degree in art history from Northern Illinois University.

Neither Jeff nor Michelle wanted to go the traditional route of working for galleries or museums; instead, both envisioned an opportunity to share their knowledge outside the academic environment.

“In our early years of teaching, we occasionally took students on tours of museums,” Jeff recalled. He and Michelle noticed that strangers would listen in, tagging along with their student tour groups. This was the spark to ignite Art Excursions, Inc.

“It really is a broad range of clientele we serve,” explained Jeff. “Our clients run the gamut in terms of their own backgrounds in the history of art.” Art collectors, former teachers, and donors regularly request flexible tours amid busy schedules. The Mishurs include art history and scholarly material in their presentations.

“We refuse to dumb down, distill, or gloss over our material regardless of what community we’re addressing,” said Jeff.