public parks

Montrose Avenue Beach

Montrose Avenue Beach

Celia loves going to the everyman beach between Montrose and Foster.  This is where the landscape opens up and buildings recede, taking a back seat to the expansive beauty of the lake and sky.

Thousands of people flocked to the beach and surrounding park yesterday to fish, picnic, sun, play beach volleyball, test the waters; meet up with friends.  Devotees come with plenty of baggage: tents, cardboard boxes laden with food, massive coolers that only the most strapping men can lift.

Ladies following the Islamic code lay on the ground with their husbands, eyes wary, covered with cloth from head to toe.  Not so many yards off, nonchalant teen girls did their best to imitate Kerri Walsh, in skimpy bikinis whacking the volleyball.

Recreation Drive

The exit sign for Recreation Drive in Chicago

Sometimes the only thing separating a jaded Chicagoan from nirvana is a rusty guardrail.

How many times had I looked at this sign without seeing?  Finally, one fateful day, responding to its call, I discovered the glories of Waveland Park, which lies at the end of Recreation Drive.

This large old lakeside park boasts tennis courts, playing fields for baseball and soccer, a nine-hole golf course, access to Belmont Harbor, picnic areas, magnificent lake and city views, and a bird sanctuary.  The lakefront bike and running trail More

New sculpture strategy

New sculpture strategy

I’ve been seeing a lot more sculpture lately, thanks to several initiatives that have been bringing more contemporary art to the lakefront and parks.  The Grandmother’s Garden in Lincoln Park alone has eight or ten new sculptures, including (above) ‘Narrow Horse,’ by Jozef Sumichrast, and Christine Rojek‘s ‘Cross-Pollination.’

What I like best about the new sculptures is their siting.  Many can be seen really well from a car or bus, so that you can look them at them when you’re commuting.  It’s great to be able to look out the window at some interesting art when sitting in traffic in your car.  Other sculptures have been plunked right down on neighborhood sidewalks, obligating you to look at them as you go by.

"Stone wobble" by Derick Malkemus, in Chicago's Lincoln Park (photo © 2013 Celia Her City)

‘Stone wobble’ by Derick Malkemus

These frank strategies, which take into account modern realities, result in fleeting encounters that deepen.  From a distance, I appreciated the insect-like qualities of Derick Malkemus‘s ‘Stone Wobble,’ which looks like a giant beetle or a fantastical flying bug that’s happened to light.  When I was finally lucky enough to get up close, I learned the name of the piece, and could appreciate its beautiful materials and the balancing act it pulls.

'Fern Temple VI' by Austin Collins and 'Ruby Rollins Roving House' by Verina Baxter in Chicago's Lincoln Park

‘Fern Temple VI’ by Austin Collins and ‘Ruby Rollins Roving House’ by Verina Baxter.

Most of the small-scale works in the parks are only temporary.  Installed in the fall of 2012 in connection with the 23rd International Sculpture Conference held in the city, they are likely to disappear next fall.  In the meantime, it’s been a pleasure to enjoy these wonderful works for free.  I hope the exposure brings the artists patronage as well as publicity.

Margaret Lanterman's 'Nesting Loft' (photograph © 2013 Celia Her City)

Margaret Lanterman’s ‘Nesting Loft.’

Chicago Sculpture Exhibit, which likewise has been bringing large-scale works to lakeside parks under the leadership of Aldermen Tom Tunney and Vi Daley, will happily continue its work.  I’m grateful to them for bringing us impressive sculptures like Jason Verbeek‘s Prairie Pump, which stands near the north entrance to Diversey Harbor, and which my sister and I very much admire.

Clear-cutting for Maggie

Clear-cutting for Maggie

Though strapped for cash and indeed wallowing in red ink, the City of Chicago has found the money to clear-cut an existing park and create a new one that will be named after a member of the Daley family.

The project involved cutting down 877 trees that had lived on the site, including mature ash, locust, and ornamentals, a process off-camera to most Chicagoans because of a perimeter fence screening the view.  A new park with all new trees will be erected at a cost of $55 million.

The late Maggie Daley, for whom the park will be named, has been privately memorialized with a building at De Paul University and a women’s cancer center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The press coverage of this expensive project has been circumspect and minimal.  And check out the webpages the Chicago Park District supposedly devoted to the public hearings: they contain not a single sentence indicating what public sentiment was.  The “hearing” is documented solely with still images devoid of words!

The park is happening.  So there, Chicago!  It will subsume the Daley Memorial Plaza that was previously an inconspicuous feature of the site.  The new landscape design was by a Brooklyn, NY, firm.

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