Molly was so nice to invite me back to A Foreign Land to talk about one of my favorite topics – public art – so I, of course, could not say no! Chicago is undeniably a great place to find all sorts of things in unusual places. But my favorite thing to discover are unique pieces of public art. There are the well known pieces in the plazas downtown and Millennium Park. But there are also great ones tucked into alley ways, airports, building lobbies, the “L” stops… even on the under passes. Chicago is so full of public art, it is hard to deny why this city is so rich in culture and history.
So instead of talking about the usual suspects, here are a few of my favorite harder to spot public art pieces around the city. If you haven’t encountered them yet, they are certainly worth the trip to find them!
One of my personal favorites is “Riverwalk Gateway,” by Ellen Lanyon. Located in the pedway under Lake Shore Drive, on the south bank of the river, this amazing 28-panel mural documents the rise of Chicago and the significance the river has had to the City. I often run through here just to visit this work. Her rendering is flawless and it always reminds me why I love this city.
The mosaic mural, “Growing 2008,” was a group effort with two lead artists, Tracy Van Duinen and Todd Osborne, and just gets me every time I drive by it. It was designed with the involvement of the Edgewater community. Residents were involved in discussions, artist-led workshops and encouraged to glaze ceramic tiles and sculpt various elements for the wall. The brilliant colors and the vibrant imagery captures your eye as you exit off Lakeshore Drive onto Bryn Mawr Avenue.
If you are one who hurries in and out of Midway Airport, then you have probably missed this next piece. “Rara Avis,” by artists Ralph Helmick and Stuart Schecter, is located, not on the ground, but above you in the main terminal of the airport. Somewhat obscure at first, the suspended sculpture is made up of thousands of different small pewter aircraft and put together in such a way that it resembles the Illinois state bird, the Cardinal. It really is breathtaking and worth going a couple minutes early for your next flight just to find it.
And lastly, this next piece is located in downtown Chicago. It is sometimes hard to notice because it is INSIDE the atrium of the Madison Plaza Building. The elevated train inspired artist Louise Nevelson to create “Dawn Shadows,” a large monochromatic steel sculpture that originally sat outside in the building’s plaza. However, the building later covered the plaza with a glass atrium and instead of moving the sculpture back outside, they built the enclosure around it. It is now a lot less “public” but still can be enjoyed if you are willing to step inside.
So if you have some free time to explore the City, add these pieces to your list to check out. They are even more magnificent in person!
Thanks again, Molly, for having me!!
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