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Are Gardens Art?

By Alicia Dorr in Miscellaneous on Sep 24, 2007 7:15PM

daleybicentennial.jpgWe're all down with sculpture gardens. But are garden-gardens art?

That’s the question artist Chapman Kelley (warning: pdf) is putting to the Chicago Park District — via a federal suit. Kelley alleges that the garden he designed and planted in Daley Bicentennial Plaza is art protected under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act. Not everyone agrees, saying that the flowers have run wild and that the garden occupied too much space. The park district reduced the garden by 50 to 60 percent with the blessing of the Grant Park Advisory Board.

The suit, which goes to trial today, alleges that the garden is art made of “nontraditional materials.” Harold Washington called it “magnificent,” and Kelley says it’s his Mona Lisa. On the other hand, park district officials have on one occasion referred to it as a “visual disaster.” Whether or not it is protected art, though, remains to be seen.

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