Archive for the ‘outdoor art’ Category

Something to help brighten people’s time at Common Ground



In our neighborhood

This has been a tumultuous year in so many ways, and it’s not over yet: coronavirus and a Covid-19 pandemic, with all the health, economic and educational side effects; police brutality against Black people, resulting in protests and riots against systemic racism and a resurgence in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement; an upcoming presidential election in the USA, which is probably the most critical in decades, if not longer.

So, it’s no wonder that people are stressed and tired, worried about their kids and their education, their jobs, a roof over their heads even. All true in our town, which is trying to come to grips with returning students at the university, and which is largely supportive of diversity and racial equity. Many people display Black Lives Matter signs in their yards and many people have joined protests.


facade2Now, a local store has an initiative to show support for diversity and that Black lives matter, as do all lives. Common Ground is our local food co-op, focusing on fresh and local produce mainly, plus organic and sustainable products. From now until the end of the year, Common Ground is celebrating the work of six Illinois black artists in a new outdoor art installation, with the intention of bolstering these artists and showcasing their work. The store commissioned some of their existing art with Black, Indigenous and People of Color as the main subject. They hope this will celebrate the diversity of our community, and that looking at these art works will give people pleasure.

These art works certainly brought a smile to our faces, and it was fun to stop and examine them more closely, and try to understand what the artists were intending.


Close-up of part of the panel by Ja Nelle Davenport-Pleasure

The six artists are Mooki, Haiku, Kofi Bazzell-Smith, Nailah Davis, Ja Nelle Davenport-Pleasure, and Keenan Daily. Three artists are shown on each side of the entrance to Common Ground, bright paintings that are a colorful band for the outdoor seating behind.

Mooki’s main focus is to spotlight diversity. She works with traditional and digital mediums, her work inspired by video games, animation and her day-to-day life.



Haiku would like to be a comic artist, whose goal is to show the viewers that there are characters who look like them, and like the artist.


Kofi Bazzell-Smith, who is based in Champaign, focuses on manga, the Japanese-style comics. He has studied manga in Japan and speaks Japanese. Here he focuses on many different facets of Black lives in America.



Note the Japanese script


“Black art matters”

Nailah Davis was born in Chicago but is now based in Brooklyn, New York. Davis works in multiple disciplines, such as photography, performance, mixed media collages, video and instrumental music, with the focus on Africana life, with regard to race, gender and identity politics. Davis wants to highlight under-represented groups within the Africana diaspora.



Ja Nelle Davenport-Pleasure makes her art by re-using and recycling whatever materials she has. So, every piece is made from sustainable materials. She also works in the literary world, and dance and fashion.



Keenan Daily’s work focuses on disenfranchised and marginalized groups in society, hoping the works will help end suffering and allow those groups to express their trauma.



wonder what Dailey “means” with people and wild animals together?


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July 4 parade in Urbana in a previous year


In a previous year, very close to our house


Another previous year

July 4th with a Twist

Normally (and nothing is really normal right now, with the Covid-19 pandemic, social-distancing and face coverings, protests over racism, a crazy US president) July 4th is a day of happiness and celebration. A day of parades, music, flags, crowds, fireworks. I suppose that might still be happening in some states where the guidelines for the spread of the pandemic are not being followed. But not here in Illinois, and not in our town of Urbana-Champaign.

In previous years we had a big parade that came down a street right by our house, so we could walk and watch the fun, feel the excitement. It was always crowded, with floats, marching bands, the Shriners on little motor cars, people giving out candy. But, that was all cancelled.


A neighborhood house this year


One page of the Urbana Amble flyer


This year

However, luckily we live in a very creative neighborhood, so a group put together something called Urbana Amble: Front Yard Garden and Art Tour, July 3 & 4. There were flyers and a PDF with the addresses and a brief description of what was there.

I walked around yesterday morning (July 4) and managed to find quite a few and take photos. Some of the others were further from our house and would have needed a short drive and then a walk, so I couldn’t do them all.

What I did find was such fun though—-thank you our Urbana neighborhood! Two that really stood out for me were Theo’s Museum of Interesting Things, and Rust on a Stick.


TheocloserTheo’s Museum is described thus: “Theo is a 5-year-old museum curator. He started his museum during the coronavirus. It has many things from the natural world (such as shells, rocks, animal bones, tree stump) and things from the material world (such as foreign currency, art). Some are found artefacts and some are permanent loans from neighbors. Theo hopes you’ll check out his museum and marvel at all the delights!” How wonderful is that for a project for a young child during the coronavirus times.



The rusty rabbit is face-covering-correct!

Rust on a Stick is “20 sculptures depicting people, plants and animals, made of welded, sometimes pierced, but always rusted iron. Recycled farm implements by local artists.” Except for two around the side, they are dotted around the front lawn of the house, the sticks planted into the grass.




Also fascinating is one garden with art sculptures—whimsical figures and creatures— made from old ceramic plant pots, and one with plant pots and old blue bottles.




blmAnd of course, there are many houses with USA flags and/or signs in support of the protests about racism and inequality.

Go Urbana!




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With my granddaughter

Columbia, MO: Butterflies

We love butterflies and all that that stand for and symbolize. So, it’s a treat to visit the Sasha Butterfly House in St Louis, which we did a couple of weekends ago (I’ll post that in the St Louis blog soon).

So, on the theme of butterflies: Recently we spent a day in Columbia MO, visiting our grandson who is a law student there. After a nice sushi lunch we all wanted coffee, so he took us to one of his favorite coffee shops called Shortwave Coffee, at 915 Alley A. It’s in an alley that leads off Ninth Street (one of the main shopping/eating streets in Columbia). The alley also has Speckled Frog Toys and Books.


Nath M


Our little granddaughter photographed these words

signAlong the wall of the alley we were delighted to find a mural of large colorful butterflies. As the sign tells us, they are called “Kindness Butterflies” (2019) and they are pretty new. Above one of the big butterflies are the words, “kindness changes everything”. What a lovely sentiment. The lead artist is Madeleine Le Mieux; assistant artists are Aveen Gadban and Ember Piersee.

Because I love murals and public art, I of course stopped to take photos. What was so


Our granddaughter took this sign too…

lovely on this day was that my little 3-and-a-half-year-old grand-daughter asked me for my phone and also took photos of the murals and of the signs! And then of the Speckled Frog! She has copied us before with taking photos, and this spontaneous picture-taking was delightful. Maybe we’ll have another budding photographer/writer!


…and the frog!

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By the Light of the Moon, by Cynthia Archer, in Chicago Children’s Museum



Money Bench, by Hedda Salz and Ray Pawley, in Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago: We’ve often seen some painted benches in Terminal 5 at O’Hare airport; they line some of the passageways as people walk towards immigration. They are colorful and many have a Chicago theme, so they fit in well with the banners that greet arrivals, “We’re glad you’re here”. But, we never took photos, as photography is not permitted there.

Then we found some more benches at the Chicago Children’s Museum, each with the name of the artist who painted it. The descriptions are very interesting and the paintings on the benches really colorful and innovative.




Secrets Bench, by Cynthia Weiss, in Chicago Children’s Museum



In Chicago Culture Center, artists Lorna Hymen, Cathryn Mann and judy O’Connor

And recently, I found two more at the Chicago Culture Center in the Renaissance Room. So, I decided to try and find out more about them. I asked at the Information desk at the Chicago Culture Center, but they didn’t really know much, except they thought the benches series had been organized by an art gallery just over the road from the Center. Was it Chicago Public Schools Gallery 37, 66 E. Randolph?

Lots more sleuthing hasn’t helped. There was a chairs-on-parade in Chicago, two years after the famous cows-on-parade in 1999. But, no-one seems sure if the benches were part of that.

https://www.jaehakim.com/lifestyles/style-lifestyles/chairs-on-parade-city-is-furnishing-them-as-street-art/I followed this link and it seems that parade was about sofas, chairs,


The other bench in Chicago Culture Center, by the same artists as above

ottomans, and televisions, but it did not actually mention benches.

Any ideas?


A wildlife bench, by Joe Hindley


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Rush More on west wall of Chicago Culture Center


One side of Rush More

Chicago is famous for wonderful public art of all kinds, including murals. I’ve written about some of the murals before (see here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/butterfly-mural-chicago/And here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/chicago-murals/).

On our last trip two weeks ago I was excited to find a couple more.


The other side of Rush More

The Chicago Culture Center commissioned a huge mural on the west wall of the building by Kerry James Marshall.It occupies a 132-foot-wide by 100-foot-high  space along Garland Court, one block west of Michigan Ave. Marshall is an American artist, born in Alabama, who now lives in Chicago. He completed the mural, called Rush More,in 2017 featuring 20 influential Chicago women in arts and culture. It’s a lovely mural and I love the play on words for the title: not Mt Rushmore, but Rush More, with the women’s faces painted in a similar way to the sculpted heads.

Here is a list of the 20 women:


The other one is a mural I found listed in the Concierge Preferred Social Media Issue under “Most ‘grammable street art in Chicago.”According to them, this is one of the 8 most Instagram-worthy  shots of street art (murals) in the city. So interesting how Social Media has “invaded” even tourist brochures!

It is the Flamingo Rum Club Mural,by JC Rivera@jcrivera, at 601 N Wells Street. It’s also a lovely mural and does brighten up that wall.



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IMG_4824We Will

By sculptor Richard Hunt, 2005, welded stainless steel

As people know, I love public art of all kinds and Chicago is famous for its outdoor public art. So, whenever we are in the city I try to find a few more pieces. This sculpture is on Randolph Street, very close to the Culture Center. The form is interesting, both angular and rounded, with the suggestion of reaching up to the sky. The name is a teaser: “We Will” makes one wonder what it is we will do.

Richard Howard Hunt (born 1925) in Chicago has over 125 sculptures on display in the USA, some in Chicago. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and still lives and works in Chicago. He has received many awards.



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IMG_3006Around the slightly more south part of Michigan Avenue

Last time we were in Chicago (September) we stayed at the Best Western Grant Park Hotel, 1100 S. Michigan Ave. We’d not stayed that far south on Michigan before, so it was fun to explore the area around there at bit. It was perfect for walking in Grant Park, with its pretty gardens and outdoor sculptures, and to walk to the Museum Campus.


A moose and an abstract mural


Moose closer—what’s with the pink bubble?


The abstract looks almost like some other form of writing

peacockWhat we also discovered were a number of murals in the vicinity. As most of you know by now, we love outdoor art/public art and murals are a big part of that. Some of the murals are bright, some quirky, some symbolic, some have an obvious theme, some do not (not that we could discern anyway!). All are bold and interesting, and certainly help to give the walls a lot more character.

I don’t know who the artists are, sorry. Here is a selection.  They are in no particular order—we just took photos as we ambled around the area. Enjoy.




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Note the commemorative wall behind the statue


View from the Spirit


Part of the Thomas wall

Chicago has a fantastic collection of public art, of all shapes, sizes and themes. Over the years we’ve tried to track down as many as we can, and I’ve written about many of them already. We spent last weekend in the city and had the chance to wander around Grant Park more than we have before, thus discovering more public art.

This lovely sculpture, the Spirit of Music, in Chicago’s Grant Park is also known as the Theodore Thomas Memorial.





Note the face on the lyre

Theodore Thomas(1835-1905) was the founder of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1891 and The Spirit of Music is a tribute to him. Under his directorship, Chicago gained a reputation for musical excellence, which continues today. The figure, and the monument behind it, were sculpted in 1923 by Czech-American artist and sculptor Albin Polasek(1879-1965). Polasek came to Chicago to head the sculpture department at the Art Institute School. Instead of creating a sculpture of Thomas, Polasek decided on a tall bronze muse holding a lyre. The artist said that the face on the lyre was modeled on his own face.




mooseThe half-ball base on which the muse stands is decorated with different animals, such as a moose, a bison, and a bear—also quite striking.

The monument is in the strip of park along Michigan Avenue, almost opposite the Blackstone.

There is a museum to Albin Polasek in Winter Park, Florida. I wrote about it here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/albin-polasek/and here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/masterpiece-of-the-week/april/



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Pink Flamingo Wings


One city banner celebrates flamingos

We were strolling around downtown Madison, WI, mostly checking out the Bucky on Parade statues, when a wall painting caught my eye. It’s of two flamingo wings, outspread, but not joined. It’s a wall installation, called Pink Flamingo Wings, on the side wall of the Wisconsin Historical Museum, Madison, on the edge of Capital Square The artist encourages people to take photos standing between the flamingo wings and pretend to be a bird, but I didn’t see anyone doing that while I was there.

The artist is Gabrielle Javier-Cerulli a mixed media artist. She lives in Madison and is the Program Director for VSA Arts Wisconsin. Installed in 2018, this is a temporary public art project until the end of summer 2018 (probably linked to the Bucky of Parade).


Real flamingos in Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo

Why flamingo wings?

Early one morning in 1979, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the city of Madison


Postcard of the flamingos of Bascom Hill

woke up to the most unusual sight of more than 1,000 pink plastic flamingo ornaments filling the lawns of Bascom Hill, the incline that leads to the Dean’s office on campus. The student government “officials” from the Pail and Shovel Party, also responsible for the ephemeral replica of the Statue of Liberty on frozen Lake Mendota, had looted student government funds to create the display as a massive prank. Apparently generally people these days agree that the money was well spent.


This Bucky on Parade is called “One leg up”

The flamingo continued to be important on campus, and in 2009, the Madison City Council voted to name the plastic flamingo as the city’s official bird. Funny, but an interesting story!

This year, U-W is hosting the Bucky on Parade and a couple of Buckys are graced with flamingos.



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The town of Garachico on the north coast of Tenerife Island. The sculpture is on one of those spits of volcanic rock 


The heart at Garachico

Recycling can be beautiful

We’ve recently returned from a wonderful trip to the Canary Islands, which I’ll start to cover in more detail from the next post. But, to start, I want to post about these unusual sculptures. As you know, we are fascinated with outdoor art, so these couldn’t fail to catch our attention.

These two interesting sculptures, which we discovered along the north coast of the island of Tenerife, were done in June 2017. One is on a pier-like spit of volcanic land in Garachico, and the other is in the square in front of the big church in Buenavista, the pretty town at the west end of the main road TF42. They are striking so we looked more closely. Each is a metal heart frame that’s being used as a recycling space for bottle tops and caps. What a great idea. They are basically the same, except the Buenavista one has a metal “B” shape opening for people to put plastic bags of caps, and the word Diversa (diverse or several) below.


The heart at Buenavista


Church square in Buenavista

signThe board for each is the same, and reads roughly (my Spanish isn’t the best!):


Educational Sculpture

The heart is symbol of goodness and solidarity.

When the artist holds out (his) hands,

One for help to yourself

And the other to everyone else.

The artist is Moises Afonso, who is a Tenerife sculptor, working largely with metal. He believes you can transform iron into anything you can imagine. He was born in Icod, on the north coast of Tenerife. His father was a blacksmith, so Alfonso grew up understanding metals. He is currently studying the creation of a School of Blacksmiths in the Canary Islands.


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