One of the best parts about running outside in Chicago is that it’s easier to discover what you might completely miss when traveling by car. I’ve gotten a better sense of my neighborhood, local real estate and even corners that are miles away by zipping up my sweatshirt, putting one foot in front of the other, and wiping sweat from my brow.
The latest cool spots relatively near me are the Native American mosaics on the Foster Avenue Lake Shore Drive underpass in Edgewater and the mosaics at the corner of Argyle and Broadway streets in Uptown.
The 3,400-square-foot expanse of “Indian Land Dancing” tells the history of Indians in Chicago. It also crosses paths with old Indian trails. The goal is to teach the past, not to just put it on display, according to a June 2009 story written by Clare Lane in The Chicago Tribune. The story can be found here: Vast Mural Will Depict Chicago’s Indian Roots
“Art in public space has been enabling in a community,” said Mary Jane Jacobs, a teacher at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago who specializes in sculpture and place-specific art. “The work becomes embraced and that grows richer over time. It grounds people within their own consciousness of place.”
There’s a lot in “Indian Land Dancing” that swells and shimmers beyond comparison, even on a cold, overcast afternoon. But even a glimpse of the yellow-, orange-, and black-tiled sun on the south side of the underpass will brighten your day. Across the street, on the north side of the underpass, a series of waves undulate until they form a woman clutching a swirl of blue, purple and white tiles, the series of circles becoming larger or smaller, depending on your perspective.
Look closer, and you’ll find mini-art within the tiles. Thunderbirds fly through the air, Indians of lore look you right in the eye, and a small tile tells you that the American Indian Center is just one mile west of where you stand. The center is located at 1630 W. Wilson Ave.
The bricolage mosaics were created by lead artists Tracy Van Duinen and Todd Osborne, Edgewater community residents, youth apprentices and American Indian artists. It’s a Chicago Public Art Group project, according to cynthiaweiss.com.
Not too far away, on the northeast corner of Argyle and Broadway streets, a lotus flower, dragonfly and more are spaced out on a wall between two small businesses. The wall belongs to a convenience store owner who gave the economic development organization Uptown United permission to use it, according to a June 2013 story in www.dnainfo.com.
Uptown United President Alyssa Berman-Cutler initiated the project. Longtime Uptown resident and artist Ginny Sykes designed images reflective of Asian cultures of Argyle Street.
Berman-Cutler said Sykes’ work “really does respect the communities” it comes from and doesn’t feel like some massive effort conceived by an artist and then “thrown at the community.” Meanwhile, Sykes adds “a layer of sophistication” that conveys “a fine-arts feel,” Berman-Cutler said in the dnainfo.com story.
Victoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.