Thursday, June 3, 2010

Indian Land Dancing

Bartholomew Photo

My daughter and I had a grand time last Sunday, participating in Chicago's annual Bike the Drive.  It was a glorious day in the city, warm with little breeze, and I don't think there is a better way to see how beautiful this city really is than cruising down the middle of Lake Shore Drive on a bicycle.

There is much to take in, grand vistas and hidden gems.  We discovered one of the latter when we passed under the Foster Avenue viaduct at the north turnaround.  I would guess that most people don't even know that Indian Land Dancing, which stretches the whole length of the underpass on both sides, is even there.  Most of those who do pass by it are in cars, coming off or entering Lake Shore Drive, and, I would guess, move east or west without paying it much attention.

Bartholomew Photo

Dedicated on August 22, 2009 and based loosely on a poem by E. Donald Eddy Two-Rivers, the mosaic or bricolage (something made or put together using whatever materials happen to be available) is a shimmering surprise, responding to the poem's themes of childhood freedom found in verses like this one:  

Events spiral to memories,
linking lives to time and history.
Culprit children frenzied with imagination
stir small hands to mock battle,
moments in a green galaxy
of ferns and cedars and green pine trees.

Public Art Group artists Tracy Van Duinen, Todd Osborne and Cynthia Weiss worked with native American artists from several tribes to develop the themes and images used in the mosaic. 

Bartholomew Photo

Formed in 1971, the Chicago Public Art Group adopted a mission "to unite artists and communities in partnership to produce quality public art and to extend and transform the tradition of collaborative, community involved, public artwork."  

According to its website (, the organization (1) organizes the design of public art projects in partnership with communities, maintaining a high level of artistic quality; (2) introduces creative skills to children and adults; (3) trains and educates professional artists in the process of creating community responsive art projects; and (4) educates communities to the social and aesthetic possibilities of collaborative public art.

CPAG projects are all over the city, ranging from Life is Beautiful at 7464 North Sheridan Road to the Garfield Park Conservatory mosaics at, located at the elevated station at Central Park and Lake Street to History of the Packinghouse Worker, a mural at 4859 South Wabash.  There are dozens of these lovely projects all over the city.  Look for them.

Life Is Beautiful (7464 North Sheridan Road)
Photo Courtesy of Chicago Public Art Group

Garfield Conservatory Mosaic 
Photo Courtesy of Chicago Public Art Group

History of the Packinghouse Worker (4859 South Wabash)
Photo Courtesy of Chicago Public Art Group

One of the many things that separates urban living from life outside the city is the element of surprise.  There are more surprises in store, on a daily basis, for the person who chooses to live in an urban environment.  Chicago is fortunate because, in many cases, those surprises involve an unexpected work of art.  Such surprises make a city human.  More than that they make a city fun.

Bartholomew Photo

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