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Chicago Land: sculpture fills a vacancy

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Cars come to a halt when their occupants notice the life-size horse. Upon closer inspection, they realize that the horse isn't going anywhere, at least not for awhile. It's made of bronze and weighs 2,000 pounds. The untitled work, created by sculptor Rogelio Tijerina, is one of 18 sculptures scattered throughout Warner Park and Gardens, a privately owned public park on the north side. The sculptures comprise Park Art 95, a free exhibit and sculpture sale intended to raise money for the park's upkeep.

Eight years ago Lois Buenger, a lifelong resident of the area, mortgaged her childhood home to purchase the empty double lot and save a 100-year-old ginkgo tree from developers. By holding fund-raisers every year, Buenger and her neighbors have transformed the garbage-strewn lot into a beautiful English-style garden, complete with flowers, plants, benches, and a gazebo.

"Lois has created a community," says Warner Park and Gardens board member Georgianne Yost. "This is the focal point. People come from six or seven blocks away and say hi to their neighbors. It's terrific. How else do you meet people?"

This year Yost's husband, Charles, who's a sculptor, suggested holding a fine-art exhibit. He rounded up the artists--most of whom are local--and arranged their sculptures so they seem as if they're part of the park.

"There's a cross section of a lot of styles here," says the soft-spoken Charles, pointing out representational and abstract styles. "I think it works pretty well. It's not boring."

Cochair Therese Lang-McDonald, who lives across the street from Yost, was the field marshal of the committees that coordinated a $25-per-guest opening-night reception at which the board raised some $9,000. The sculptures are for sale, but so far there have been no takers. The artists have agreed to make a financial donation to the park in the event that their artwork sells.

Charles says the exhibit makes people think a little bit more about the art and the park and how they go together. "That was our purpose--not to have the sculptures upstage the park, or to have the park overpower the sculptures," he says.

As he speaks, a man and woman walk by and wave; they were engaged on a bench in the park two months ago. Three kids on bikes ride down the red brick path. A woman sits on a bench and reads as yet another car comes to a halt in front of the horse.

Warner Park and Gardens is at 1446 W. Warner. Park Art 95 runs through September 22.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Peter Barreras.

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