With an emphasis on culture, a new kind of nature trail emerges along Chicago’s south lakefront

North of the Margaret Burroughs Beach, a Caracol-inspired gathering space with a Mesoamerican hop scotch game is be part of a new trail in the Burnham Wildlife Corridor. This is one of five sites installed in by teams of artists and community-based organizations whose designs are inspired both by local ecology, as well as the heritage of communities adjacent to the south lakefront.

Moving along the trail, just past the 31st Harbor, an intertwined monarch butterfly sculpture crowns a hill, this design will be circled with common milkweed. West of Lake Shore Drive on 31st Street, south on the trail, a Scholar's rock sits in a grove of mature oak trees; have a seat and imagine the sounds of traffic as waves from an ocean, urban nature at its best. Crossing 39th street/Oakwood, on the west side of Lake Shore Drive, designed for growth every year, sculpted willow branches take organic shapes. The woodchip trail continues, a fallen tree hugs a bird sculpture born from the Sankofa symbol, a soulful reflection on nature.

The Gathering Spaces, part of the Roots & Routes Initiative, were curated by a volunteer committee comprised of arts professionals and community leaders. 

Caracol Opening

Caracol, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, Roots & Routes, Habitat Restoration, Pilsen, Contratiempo, Chicago, Lakefront
Photo by John Weinstein, © The Field Museum


1. Caracol

Lead artists:  Georgina Valverde, Diana Solis, Jose Terrazas

Non-profit partner:  contratiempo (Pilsen) – preserves and highlights the cultural identity and contributions of the Spanish-speaking

Latino population in the United States.

Description:  Drawing on rich connections from the natural world and cultural symbolism, Caracol (“snail” and “shell” in Spanish) represents the immigrant's desire to belong while maintaining the core of memory and identity. Snails perform a critical role in the food chain, breaking down plant matter and aiding in the nutrification of the soil. Likewise, immigrants economic and cultural contributions enrich and revitalize the host society. Caracol´spiral-shaped structure suggests ongoing movement from the core to a widening exterior—from the familiar to the unknown.  The installation includes a table that can function as a work or picnic table, and as a painting surface for a series of murals featuring the interplay of language and images, a stage, and a hopscotch game that uses Mesoamerican numbers.

 

La Ronda Parakata

Gathering Spaces, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, Chicago, Festivals, Summer, Spring, Latino art, African-American art, monarch butterfly, sankofa, bronzeville, pilsen, chinatown, scholars rock, La Ronda Parakata
Photo by John Weinstein, © The Field Museum

2. La Ronda Parakata

Lead artists:  Hector DuarteAlfonso “Piloto” Nieves

Non-profit partner:  Casa Michoacán (Pilsen) – promotes cultural, social, and sporting activities between the Mexican and immigrant Michoacán community, with a transnational vision.

Description:  This project is a circular sculpture inspired by the magic symbolism of the butterfly, harmony with nature, and migration.  It is demarcated by a delicate sculptural ring or “ronda” of interlocking butterfly forms. The center of the space features native plants and cement blocks that are being repurposed as rustic seating.

 

Set in Stone

Gathering Spaces, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, Chicago, Festivals, Summer, Spring, Latino art, African-American art, monarch butterfly, sankofa, bronzeville, pilsen, chinatown, scholars rock, Set in Stone
Photo by John Weinstein, © The Field Museum

3. Set in Stone

Lead artists:  Andy Bellomo, Anna Murphy

Non-profit partner:  Chinese-American Museum of Chicago (Chinatown) -- promotes the culture and history of Chinese-Americans in the Midwest through exhibitions, education and research.

Description:  This project is an interpretation of a traditional Chinese “scholar’s rock” by sculpting, molding and fabricating a sculpture that emulates the magnificence felt through viewing these rocks. The scholar’s rock sculpture is placed at the center of a tranquil rock garden with hand-carved log benches for viewing/contemplation.

 

Sounding Bronzeville

Gathering Spaces, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, Chicago, Festivals, Summer, Spring, Latino art, African-American art, monarch butterfly, sankofa, bronzeville, pilsen, chinatown, scholars rock, Sounding Bronzeville
Photo by John Weinstein, © The Field Museum

4. Sounding Bronzeville

Lead artists:  Fo Wilson, Norman Teague

Non-profit partner:  Bronzeville Community Development Partnership (Bronzeville) -- focuses on information technology, heritage tourism, hospitality workforce development and training, preservation and sustainability in Bronzeville.

Description:  This site includes several organic, amorphous sculptural forms that rise from the ground in different heights and shapes, covered with native plant material. Some of these forms serve as seating, and some have “sound ports” or “nesting ports.” These openings allow for visibility through the forms as well as opportunities for specific audial experiences between people. This piece commemorates and remembers the strength and resilience of thousands of African-Americans who made the journey from the South seeking better opportunities North with 100 years of the Great Migration.

Architects: Monica Chadha and Mike Newman; Landscape Architects Nilay Mistry and Nathan Wright; Willow Furniture Maker and Consultant Dave Chapman

 

Sankofa for the Earth

Gathering Spaces, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, Chicago, Festivals, Summer, Spring, Latino art, African-American art, monarch butterfly, sankofa, bronzeville, pilsen, chinatown, scholars rock, Sankofa for the Earth
Photo by John Weinstein, © The Field Museum

5. Sankofa for the Earth

Lead artists:  Arlene Turner Crawford, Dorian Sylvain, Raymond A. Thomas

Non-profit partner:  South Side Community Art Center (Bronzeville) -- preserves, conserves and promotes the legacy and future of African American art and artists, while educating the community on the value of art and culture.

Description:  This project features a “Sankofa” bird made from mixed-media and recycled materials. In Africa, a bird looking backwards over its tail represents the Sankofa symbol, which means “go back and fetch it.” It is an understanding that our past(s) holds important information to move us forward in life. There is a mosaic on the exterior of the bird and mural on the interior representing Bronzeville history. QR codes are integrated into the mural design to allow visitors with smartphones, to access sites with information about the images included in the mural, as well as, information on Bronzeville, the Chicago Park District and the Field Museum.

 

How to get to the Gathering Spaces: 

Gathering Spaces Map