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The South Side Lakefront Is Getting 5 Artsy New 'Gathering Spaces'

By Mae Rice in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 22, 2016 3:53PM

A rendering of Caracol, one of the conch-shell-inspired gathering spaces planned for the Burnham Nature Sanctuary

“Gathering spaces” is the Mayor’s official spring buzzword. On Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans for “cross-generational gathering spaces” on the Paseo, a rails-to-trail conversion connecting Pilsen and Little Village.

Then on Monday, Emanuel announced plans for still more gathering spaces, five in total, along the South Side's Burnham Wildlife Corridor. This 100-acre strip of lakefront land runs from the McCormick Bird Sanctuary south to the Burnham Nature Sanctuary. These gathering spaces are meant to create space for South Side residents to connect with nature in the midst of a viable wildlife habitat. (And stay tuned—in an afternoon speech at Chatham's Hamilton Park Fieldhouse Tuesday, Rahm is also set to announce a slate of yet more parks improvements.)

“The objective of the Burnham Wildlife Corridor is to create healthy, vibrant and native habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife; and to meaningfully connect visitors, especially those from neighboring communities, to a revitalized public green space in ways that inspire exploration, enjoyment, and stewardship of the area,” Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly said in a statement.

La Ronda Parataka.jpg
A rendering of La Ronda Parataka, a butterfly-inspired gathering space planned for the Pilsen stretch of the Burnham Nature Sanctuary.

Each unique gathering space will double as functional public art, and will be created by several local artists backed by a community organization. The current planned gathering spaces, selected via a call for proposals, include:

Caracol (location unspecified)
Led by artists Georgina Valverde and Diana Solis and non-profit contratiempo

This will be an installation “based on the interior shape of the conch shell —a logarithmic spiral—which represents the desire to belong while also maintaining the core of memory and identity.” This will be a “spiral open-ended structure that can function as a work or picnic table and community mural surface.”

Sounding Bronzeville (Bronzeville)
Led by artists Fo Wilson and Norman Teague and non-profit Bronzeville Community Development Partnership

This will be an array of “organic, amorphous sculptural forms” covered in “native plant material.” Some will define the area’s boundaries; others will have somewhat-mysterious “sound ports” or “nesting ports,” which visitors can see through or use for “ specific audial experiences between people.”

La Ronda Parataka (Pilsen)
Led by artists: Hector Duarte and Alfonso “Piloto” Nieves and non-profit Casa Michoacan

This will be a circular, butterfly-inspired sculpture, marked by “a delicate sculptural ring or ‘ronda’ (in Spanish) of interlocking butterfly forms.” In the middle of this ring, there will be native plants and concrete seating.

(Note: We hope you have enjoyed this Mayor-mediated attempt at describing fairly conceptual art!)

A rendering of Sounding Bronzeville, a gathering space planned for the Bronzeville stretch of the Burnham Nature Sanctuary.