Sunday, July 10, 2022

"Stroll in the Park"

     Saturday was a gorgeous summer day in Chicago. And I got lucky, in that a young cousin from Boston was in town with her friend, which prompted me to get off my ass, out of the ol' leafy suburban paradise, and into the city — Lincoln Park Zoo, specifically, after an enjoyable lunch at R.J. Grunt's which is still crowded, still delicious, still fun. 
     While strolling in Lincoln Park we came upon this whimsical sculpture, at the corner of Dickens and Lincoln Park West. By Robbie Barber, it's titled, appropriately enough, "Stroll in the Park." The 58-year-old Texan explains in an artist's statement that the artwork is "an homage to the homemade assemblages that dot the American roadside (dinosaurs, muffler men, cars on poles)," intended to elevate "the mobile home to the level of an American icon, right beside monster trucks and professional wrestling."
     Mission accomplished. While most public art is crap, as I've said before, the whimsy and humor of this instantly appealed, as did the sky blue color, and the careful weathering of the trailer part of the baby carriage. It's here for only a year, thanks to Sculpture in the Parks, a program putting 20 artworks in 20 parks, run by the Chicago Park District, the Evanston Arts Council, and the North River Commission.

      One clever artwork doesn't counterbalance the windstorm of bad publicity that Chicago has been suffering. But it's good to remember that, despite its problems, Chicago is functioning as a city should, between its free zoo, busy lakefront and freshly scattered sculptures. We drove up Lake Shore Drive from North Avenue to Hollywood, then up Sheridan to the Bahai Temple.  Nobody shot at us, the lake sparkled and the whole city seemed to be out in force, enjoying life.
     "Some hellhole," I said.


  1. Much needed refreshing column. Chicago is a wonderful place to live and visit. It offers so much for so many.
    When we visit we always go to the zoo and ride the Lakefront Trail. Never gets old.
    As far as public art is concerned, I don’t know what’s good or bad, I’m just glad it’s there. It’s by the people and for the people.

  2. It bums me out that you are not a fan of public art though it heartens me to see you occasionally come across a piece you like. Thanks for sharing a photo of this piece.
    What with coevid and having moved to the Southside a couple years ago I dont get up north much anymore after having spent my entire life stumbling around up there.

    My wife and I came across a sculpture by Yoko Ono walking through Jackson Park this spring. A fine piece on permanent display just outside the Japanese garden. A place I highly recommend.

    Not as much public art on display down this way and much more shooting. Still, not a hell hole.

    1. Almost all public art of the last 30 years is total garbage!
      Like that huge atrocity at the Southwest corner of Grant Park, where the best critics are the dogs that piss on it!
      Or did you forget what was claimed to be a sculpture & used to be in front of the former Time/Life Building on Fairbanks &Ohio, a bunch of scrap steel, salvaged from a junk yard?
      Or that atrocity Miro saddled Chicago with, facing the Picasso?
      Or go in front of the Rogers Park police station & there's another pileup of scrap steel welded together.
      Remember the guy who back in the 1970s used to turn old chromed car bumpers into animals, at least those were clever & fun, but the city's asinine 1% for art in all projects is a waste of money, better spent on something useful, like more public toilets!

    2. Wow Clark thats strong stuff! Art is meant to be evocative. Guess some of the pieces you consider trash are doing their job.

      10 great reasons to support public art:

      1. It’s public! Everyone has access to public art. It’s directly in the public sphere and not confined to galleries or museums.
      2. It enriches our physical environments, bringing streetscapes, plazas, town buildings and schools to life.
      3. It’s a great tool for civic engagement, building social capital and encouraging civil discourse.
      4. It provides professional opportunities for artists and cultivates an environment in which the creative class thrives.
      5. It boosts local economies. Businesses supply materials and labor; restaurants, hotels and transportation companies benefit from a site that attracts visitors.
      6. It’s an investment in place making—measured by livability and quality of life—that also engenders community pride.
      7. It connects citizens to their neighbors and their shared history through documentation and celebration, and makes cultural heritage a tangible community asset.
      8. It enlivens places where people work, which can improve employee morale, productivity and respect.
      9. It creates supportive learning environments. It opens eyes—and minds! It attracts students to environments conducive to both learning and fun.
      10. It raises public awareness about important community issues, such as environmental stewardship and respect for diversity.
      --From the Amherst Public Art Commission and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

  3. Enjoyed this. Yeah, Grunts was go-to place when we were Dinks and visited LPZ.

  4. I agree, both with our host's general impression of much public art and that this whimsical sculpture is an appealing exception. Fine photos, as usual. Even though we don't get to R. J. Grunts often (uh, not in the last 2 1/2 years, for example), I'm glad he didn't close it when he was going to.

    While I might not be quite as harsh as Clark St., I do agree with him about the Miro, which I believe we disagreed about on EGD before, Franco...

    Ono's piece in Jackson Park is better than a stick in the eye, but it doesn't add much appeal to Wooded Island for this observer. The Garden of the Phoenix is swell, though! Did you get over by there to see the cherry blossoms during their brief appearance in the Spring, F.? : )

    1. Yes we disagree on the Miro. Did accidentally see the cherry blossoms while walking my dog.

    2. Wow, Franco, that's dismissive stuff! The cherry trees they planted around the MSI basin are meant to be evocative. Most of the 10 things you pointed to with regard to public art apply to them, too. ; )

    3. I love wooded island. walked over there last night without the dog. not allowed in the Japanese garden. wanted to go in. the views from there are great for meditative/ contemplative moments . dont really fall in with the cherry blossom swooning every year. saw some beautiful cup plants and a wild Lilly .

      grateful the proprietor is letting me comment lately. trying not to push my luck

    4. Fair enough. We actually went to see the blossoms on the day of the hanami festival this year, because that was the day we could make it. Way too many folks milling around for my taste, and there was a line to get in the Japanese garden, so we didn't even go in there.

  5. Is graffiti art?

    1. Only if preceded with the word “Physical”

  6. Thanks to the continued burgeoning of its lush tree canopy, Sheridan Road--from Loyola to Northwestern--looked better than it ever has in my a verdant green tunnel. The old hellhole still puts on a damn good show in the summertime.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.