It’s raining umbrellas on Berteau.
Those who’ve happened upon the street’s 2000 block know what we’re talking about: the sudden appearance of a dozen or so light-colored brellies dangling from the trees above like miniature parachutes. The display is guaranteed to produce two reactions among passersby: whimsical delight and “What the heck?”
The head-scratcher is actually the work of artist Nayeon Yang (not Christo, as some have speculated), part of the Branch Project that’s sprung up around Northcenter the past few days and runs through April 22. The brainchild of Miyeon Kwon, director of the Prak Sis Contemporary Art Association, 1917 W. Irving Park Rd., the Branch Project was conceived as a companion to last weekend’s North Center Art Festival, though weather hampered its installation.
Artists and community members were invited to transform trees into works of art, “making something different than what we think, refreshing our thinking,” explained Kwon. In more practical terms, the goal was also to create foot traffic for local businesses located along the route of the exhibit.
Though wind and rain curbed Kwon’s ambition and that of participants – her initial vision was to cover every tree in a wide swath of Northcenter – what they did manage to accomplish is highly imaginative. Curiosity seekers will discover ceramic birds nesting in the tree outside the Lincoln Square Pottery Studio, 4150 N. Lincoln Ave., and a colorful “clothesline” strung up in Northcenter’s Town Square.
The exhibit in the Square is the handiwork of Ashley McDowell and Alexandra Chandler, a pair of enthusiastic students from Blaine Elementary, one of the project’s sponsors.
“She’s thoroughly enjoying herself,” Lynn Chandler said of her daughter, a first-grader at Blaine. Watching Alexandra skip around, choosing fabrics to add to her artwork, her mother was grateful for the opportunity to get out into the community and interact with other people. “She met a new student from her school that she didn’t know before,” said Chandler.
“These are the memories that will stay,” added Rashmi Ramaswami, mom to fourth-grader Ashley. “The piece shows that exuberance.”
Over on Irving Park, in the median of the road opposite Prak Sis’ storefront, artist Jane Georges juxtaposed nature and our throwaway society as she bubble-wrapped pairs of trees in packing material upcycled from her day job at the Vosges chocolate boutique in Lincoln Park.
“I like using materials you wouldn’t normally use to make art,” she said, admitting it also saves her from having to buy canvasses. As the bubble wrap swayed in the wind, threatening to pull loose, Georges said, “I like the thought of artwork not being permanent. For me, artwork is about the process and not the outcome.”
According to Kwon, artists are continuing to contribute to the Branch Project as weather permits. The public is invited to join Kwon and the projects’ artists on a walking tour of the exhibit Sunday, April 22. Meet at 1 p.m. at 3805 N. Lincoln Ave., FT Karall Company, and meander past the artwork, finishing at the Irving Park Brown Line station.
Meanwhile, if it starts to rain and you’re caught without an umbrella, you know where to find one.