On Oct. 9 from noon to 4 p.m. artists will be
Mount Greenwood Park, 3724 W. 111th
Artist Todd Osborne will talk about the six interactive sound
Skinner Park, 1331 W. Monroe St.
Artist Phil Schuster will talk about the "Vegetable Dragon"
Jesse Owens Playground, 8800 S. Clyde
Artist Julia Sowles Barlow will talk about the park's Olympic
On Oct. 16 from noon to 4 p.m.artists will be
Margate Park, 4921 N. Marine Drive.
Artists Corinne Peterson and Ginny Sykes will talk about the metal
sculptures of a dragonfly and a butterfly as well as limestone
animal sculptures and mosaics.
Roscoe Playlot at Belmont Harbor, 3600 N.
Artist Jon Pounds will talk about the concrete boats that appear
to be floating in rolling waves of soft surface.
Commercial Club Park, 1845 W. Rice
Artist Phil Schuster will talk about the climbing snake sculpture
named "Slimey the Snake."
Palmer Square Playlot, 3100 W. Palmer
Artist Roman Villarreal will talk about the play structures based
on the story of "The Velveteen Rabbit."
Mount Greenwood Park, 3724 W. 111th
Artist Jim Brenner will talk about the six interactive sound
The Chicago Park District operates more than 500
playgrounds in the city, the vast majority of which have slides,
swings and climbing structures. But a handful have something more:
delightful and whimsical play structures envisioned by the
community and created by artists.
Since 2005, the Chicago Public Art Group, an independent
nonprofit, has created public art that acts as play structures in
seven Chicago playgrounds. An eighth, planned for the new Albany
Whipple Park at 1803 N. Albany Ave., will open later this year and
features a giant spider and spider web climbing
"In each case, we try to work with what the community is
interested in and then we try to make a good artistic response to
it," says Jon Pounds, executive director of the Chicago Public Art
For example, residents around Skinner Park, 1331 W. Monroe
St., wanted a climbing structure in the form of an animal. Then
they told the artists they wanted to plant a community garden once
the playground was finished.
"When I heard that, my mind snapped to an idea of the
artist (Guiseppe) Arcimboldo. He did portraits made out of fruits
and vegetables. So the idea of the community garden next to a
reptile produced a Chinese dragon made out of what looks like
fruits and vegetables," Pounds says.
These unique parks only happen if the community demands
it-and is willing to raise the additional money it requires. In one
case, residents raised $400,000 to supplement the Park District
budget for renovating a park, says Chris Gent, deputy director of
planning and development for the Park District.
The average cost of a standard playground renovation is
about $400,000, Gent says. That money buys new swings, slides and
traditional play equipment as well as paying to make the parks
safer and more accessible to people with disabilities.
Sarah Laing brings her kids, Julian, 5, and Anna, 3, to
play at Margate and Roscoe parks. At Margate, 4921 N. Marine Drive,
the art elements are more geared toward adults. Laing likes to sit
on the artist-created bench and watch her kids play on the nearby
firetruck-shaped play equipment. At Roscoe Playlot, next to Belmont
Harbor at 3400 N. Lake Shore Drive, artists created boats and
gentle waves that are aimed directly at younger kids.
"They just go to town climbing on these boats and making
up stories," she says. "I think it's really great to have unique
types of parks. I have a memory of going to a park when I was young
and climbing on a huge rocket ship. Those are the memories that
stay in their minds forever. I think my kids will always remember
the boats (at Roscoe) and the firetruck (at Margate)."
Chicago will celebrate the artists and the park structures
they have created in October.
Cindy Richards is the mom of two who gets her muse from traveling the world, usually with kids in tow. She also writes for TravelingMom.com, where she also serves as editor.
See more of Cindy's stories here.
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