July 23rd, 2004

Crown Fountain at Millenium Park

Another feature of Chicago's new Millenium (plus 4) Park, is a wacky but fun thing called The Crown Fountain. At least in the hot weather, kids love this thing. I walked over at lunch time today, and there were hordes of children in their swimsuits playing in this thing.

Visualize two tall rectangular glass-block towers, with a fair spread of space between them, say 35 yards. Now, imagine yourself standing between them, and that each tower has a giant close-up movie shot of a face, made quite bright by some kind of LED technology. A face stays up for about 15 minutes, then they switch to a new face, and apparently they have hundreds of faces they rotate throught. Now, imagine that water is pouring off the top of the towers, and that the place you are standing is actually a shallow pool of water. Finally, imagine that periodically a big jet of water comes right out of the movie-mouths.

I know, hard to visualize, sounds insane. But kids like it, so I will forgive a lot. I have a pro-kid bias, obviously, because when I saw it on a chilly day, with no kids, I thought it was kind of dumb.

Here's an article which discusses the LED's:
http://www.plsn.com/cgi/news/viewnews.cgi?id=1080002363

Here's a photo of a face spouting water:
http://zulkey.buzznet.com/user/?id=384923

Here's a model of the layout:
http://www.richardgraygallery.com/pdf/jplensa_News1RevFinal.pdf

Rhyme of the day:

I love to see kids having fun
Splashing and dashing through water and sun

Criticism of the day

In a comment on my post last night about Crown Fountain, Madbard took me to task for the quality of my rhyme du jour, but complimented me on the general quality of these daily rhymes.

Oh my.

Am I going to have to start thinking critically about these little things?

It's funny, the other day I made up a rhyme for my wife, and she said "that sounds like those rhymes in your blog." Somehow it didn't sound like a phrase of high praise.

But, reflecting on why I might I have written an especially bad one, I fear it has to do with my sentimentality where children are involved. There may have been little magic in my actual verses yesternight, but in my imagination the children were cavorting in the water and there was magic indeed.

Rhyme of the day:

Sometimes I veer
To the sentimental.
Perhaps to my verse
It's detrimental.

Rollerblader death follow-up

Back in June I wrote about a rollerblader who had died after falling and cracking his skull and breaking his neck. I found it unnerving because I had been on the same bike trail, about the same time that day. (This occurred in south suburban Cook county.)

At the time, someone asked if he had been wearing a helmet, and I said I guessed not, but I wasn't sure. Well, the Chicago Tribune on July 21 ran a story about the dangers of bike trails. In the story they mentioned that this poor guy had been skating without a helmet.

The story mentions that on the exact same day, June 20, there was another bike trail death in the Chicago area. On the lakefront path a woman died after her bicycle hit another in a head-on collision. Whether she had a helmet, they don't say. Probably not, if I had to guess.

Another Michigan Avenue Fountain

I wrote about the new "Crown Fountain" yesterday. Today I spent part of my lunch hour at a much older spectacular fountain just off Michigan Ave. It's a huge piece outside Chicago's Art Institute. It is a five-female-figure piece. Each woman represents one of the Great Lakes. Basically, Miss Superior stands above the others and pours water down all over them. The first place the water hits is the ample bosom of Miss Huron, who looks like she is enjoying the shower immensely. From there the water splashes its way down. At the bottom of the piece, Miss Ontario gazes off into the distance, perhaps out to the ocean.

It's by Lorado Taft. Taft was a turn-of-the-century Illinois sculptor whose work I have always liked. I'm not sure what you call his style. I guess it's neoclassical style, but with some romantic spirit. I first got interested in him when I was in high school, when my Urban Studies class made a field trip to his studio at the University of Chicago.

(No. He wasn't there. I'm not that old. But someone had preserved the place.)

Here's a good long shot of how the Fountain of The Great Lakes looks today:
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/OmniSmith/GreatLakes.html

Photo of Taft's spooky tomb:
http://www.graveyards.com/graceland/esilence.html

His "Alma Mater" statue for the University of Illinois:
http://www.uiuc.edu/ricker/CampusTour?target=goToStop&code=1867no

There's a little picture of the fountain here. Click on the little picture and you will get a big pic:
http://www.great-lakes.net/teach/history/art/f_1.html

Here's a set of historical photos of the fountain:
http://images.library.uiuc.edu/projects/taft/#Lakes

Article about Taft:
http://www.bartleby.com/65/ta/Taft-Lor.html

Here's a little about the studio:
http://www.cityofchicago.org/Landmarks/T/TaftMidway.html

Note: I already did my rhyme du jour
So rest content with this sculptural tour.