Monday, February 28, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 2: 114th Street-106th Street
This sketch is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see the painting completed based on this sketch.

The second mile of my journey down Western took me deeper into Beverly Hills (or Beverly).  This portion of the city located on the southern edge of the city was built by English engineers as an exclusive streetcar suburb.  In addition to English roots, Beverly is also home to a large Irish-American community and many Irish establishments. I had been to this portion of Beverly before for the South Side Irish Parade, which was held the Sunday before St. Patrick's day until it was cancelled in 2009.  

As I walked through Beverly, I came across the Beverly Arts Center, which was founded in 1968 and offers nearly 100 classes, as well as the Irish Film Festival.  The Center moved to their current location at 111th Street and Western, in 2002.  Also, along this stretch is Kennedy Park, which at 18 acres was by far the largest park created by the Calumet Park District.  The Calumet District began to purchase land for this park in 1911 at the urging of Morgan Park residents. By 1912, the Calumet Park District had completed acquisition of a dump site and an existing ball field for park development. Although much of the property remained unimproved through the 1920s, the park district worked with the Morgan Park Woman's Club to create a bird sanctuary and wild flower preserve on 5 undeveloped acres. The park district began full-scale improvements in 1930, using labor from the state's Unemployed Relief Service. 

Have you been to the Beverly Arts Center, Kennedy Park, or the South Side Irish Parade?
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