A brisk walk through any section of Chicago will reveal that the city is a haven for outdoor art. Sculpture gardens, murals, and monuments can be found almost everywhere in the city. Some have achieved iconic status and come to symbolize the city itself. These works attract locals and selfie-taking visitors from around the world. It’s impossible to see them all in one day. Here is a guide to the best of Chicago outdoor art.
1. Cloud Gate (The Bean)
No visit to Chicago is complete without a picture with the famous Cloud Gate, lovingly called “The Bean.” It is Chicago’s Rockefeller Center, its Bourbon Street, the city’s center of gravity where excited tourists and nostalgic Chicagoans celebrate the city together. British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor constructed the giant globule by welding 168 stainless steel plates together into a seamless mass that distorts as it reflects the city’s stunning skyline. Its iconic fame, rendered in the short years since its 2006 completion, is a testament to its power to unite and connect people to the undeniable energy that permeates Chicago.
2. Agora (Grant Park)
Anyone walking south on Michigan Avenue past Buckingham Fountain will find a series of tall brown figures ambling aimlessly in Grant Park. This is the Agora, an art installation of more than one hundred nine-foot high, cast iron, headless people arranged by Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz. The Greek word for a meeting place in Athens, the Agora has been on permanent loan from the Polish Ministry of Culture since 2006, and commemorates the influential role Chicago’s Polish immigrants have played in the city’s history.
3. Mile of Murals
On Chicago’s far north side is a full mile of outdoor murals that runs along the CTA Red Line track from Estes Avenue to Pratt Boulevard. Nineteen large-scale murals appear on ten block-long walls, completed by new artists using annual themes selected by arts professionals and community leaders. Works completed so far include Gretchen Hasse’s “Resilience,” Thomas Kong’s “Be Happy,” and Bruno Big’s “Bicycle Family.”
4. Rogers Park Art Gallery Sculpture Park
Chicago’s northeast side has become a defacto arts district, in no small part because of the Sculpture Garden in the Rogers Park Art Gallery. Sculptor Andy De la Rusa used discarded objects to create these evocative and colorful pieces that will make you look at refuse in a whole new way.
6. Monument To The Great Migration
The giant bronze man carrying a suitcase at an intersection south of Chicago’s downtown loop commemorates the African Americans who came to Chicago from the South in the early 1900s. American artist Alison Saar also depicted numerous other suitcases on the sculpture’s base to signify the travel endured by millions of people on their way through Illinois in search for a better life.
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