Have you ever wondered what the lions outside The Art Institute would say if they could talk? Or what the Bean is thinking as tourists snap pictures in its reflection every day?
That’s the idea behind Statue Stories Chicago, which asks, “If statues could talk, what stories would they tell?”
Statue Stories, inspired by a similar effort in London, gives voices to 30 statues across Chicago, using kid-friendly, two-minute monologues written by some of the city’s leading theater companies and recorded by some of the most recognizable voices around, from Second City alum Steve Carell to Lookingglass Theatre co-founder David Schwimmer and Oak Park’s own Bob Newhart. All you need is a smartphone—simply enter the information, and moments later you’ll receive a phone call with a famous voice on the other end of the line.
“We pass these statues by without looking at them properly, and if they had something to say, we might look at them longer,” says Colette Hiller, the producer of Statue Stories Chicago.
Of the 30 statues, situated throughout the city, nine are most appropriate for children, Hiller says. The female bison who guards Humboldt Park—known as “Sounds of Whoop”—greets visitors and tells them what she’s doing there, while the hard-to-see lizard on Alexander von Humboldt’s statue explains why the park is named after him. In Oz Park, you can find out what Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion are up to at night (following the Yellow Brick Road, perhaps?). And outside the Art Institute, visitors learn whether the lions called In an Attitude of Defiance and On the Prowl actually like standing there (and maybe how they really feel about supporting our local sports teams).
On a deeper level, families can learn more about Chicago reformer Jane Addams at the Helping Hands sculpture in Chicago Women’s Park, thanks to a tribute by children’s author Blue Balliet. And aspiring young writers can enter a competition to give voice to Lincoln Park’s Fountain Girl, originally erected by The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in 1893.
While there is a full list of the talking statues available at statuestorieschicago.com, Hiller says the best way to discover them is through “serendipity”—just happening across them during your adventures in the city. She believes the fun in the experience is that parents and children can find out new information at the same time, an “empowering” thing for the kids.
“It’s always lovely when a parent and child can learn together,” Hiller says. “This is a very nice opportunity to listen together and to learn something.”
After all, you never know what they’re going to say if you just take a moment and listen.