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Baby-on-Board Review: Niki at Garfield Park

By Elizabeth Shapiro in Miscellaneous on Jun 20, 2007 5:00PM

2007_06_Niki%27sNana.jpgChicagoist loves parenting in Chicago; we’re happy for now to give up the sprawling lawns of suburbia to enjoy all the city has to offer in the summer months. Recently, we discovered a new favorite: “Niki in the Garden,” an exhibition of sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

We know what you’re thinking: why would we take a kid to see some plants and statues? The thirty art pieces created by de Saint Phalle aren’t your run-of-the-mill, Art Institute issue statuary. Many of her vibrant creations (including animals, historical figures, and Rubenesque ladies called Nanas) encourage interaction. Green signs posted near each installation share whether your little one is allowed to climb on, sit in, touch or just observe these mosaic figures.

2007_06_Niki.jpgHead to the Conservatory’s outdoor City Garden to get to the most kid-friendly statues. This expansive green area gives children plenty of space to run around investigating the artworks or simply to enjoy a picnic snack on the grass. During the weekends, kids can make-and-take their own Niki-inspired creations or discover their own inner artist while learning about some of de Saint Phalle’s techniques.

While getting your fill of Phalle, don't miss the Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden, an interactive exhibit where kids from crawlers to climbers can actually get excited about botany. Of all the museums we’ve been to here in the city, this is one of the most well constructed children’s areas: your kid can climb, slide, and dig on multiple exhibit levels and even help a giant bee pollinate his flower (perhaps 2007_06_CrawlingGarden.jpgprompting some discussions?). We appreciated the soft area set aside just for those two and under to climb around pictures of the plant life cycle. Our baby’s not taking notes on it yet, but the Conservatory gets points for giving him a space all his own.

Whether you’re admiring Niki’s lovely ladies, chasing your toddler around her totem poles, or getting hands-on in the garden, your family will love a trip to Garfield Park Conservatory this summer. Yet another reason to love raising kids in Chicago!

“Niki in the Garden” is at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., until Halloween and is sponsored by Chicago’s Art of Play. There’s free parking in an adjacent lot and a Green Line stop for those of you inclined to use the CTA.