After dozens of community meetings and over a year of planning, the North River Commission and a broad collection of neighborhood groups are celebrating the official groundbreaking of a sculpture park and healing garden Thursday at 3:30 p.m. on the northwest corner of Lawrence Ave. and the Chicago River.
While actual construction will not begin until Spring 2012 and the first phase should not be completed until the end of Summer 2012, the park will see an immediate, noticeable change with four large, new sculptures scattered throughout the park grounds.
The planned, new park design, which has only received private funding so far, will ultimately totally replace the existing park design and include a children’s garden, a lotus garden, a labyrinth, a bike path that will connect to the North River Branch path, a walking path shaped like an infinity sign and the sculpture and healing gardens. It will also include newly acquired space just west of the existing park on Lawrence, deeded over from a developer who was unable to develop the land.
“We will do the pieces we can as we get funding,” said North River Commission Project Coordinator Rebecca Rico. “Next year, we’re looking to do the main path and the lotus garden and more sculptures.”
The entire project, which should take about five years to complete, is expected to cost $1.5 million, a low sum as park construction goes. For comparison, the Filbert Playlot renovation, for a space about one-eight the size of Ronan Park, is expected to cost about $500,000.
“We’re getting a lot of pro bono work and getting a lot of partnerships for supplies and things.” said Rico. “The whole site design was done pro bono, so we’re able to get a lot of things done for free.”
The park’s architect, Tannys Langdon, is from Albany Park and an architecture professor at the Art Institute.
The sculptures will be curated by a committee led by Northeastern Illinois University Art Department Chair, Mark McKernin. The first sculptures include pieces by Nenna Okore, Shencheng Xu, and Stephanie Stachura. The committee will include, “Artists, community members and someone from the Park District,” said Rico. Those interested in being a part of the sculpture selection committee should contact Rico via email.