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.
This mile is a vibrant portion of Western. The street is narrower here than in portions of the Avenue which lie further north. There are a lot of businesses along this stretch--restaurants, including Fat Johnnie's Red Hots Famous Red Hots featured in the painting for this mile, hardware stores, and convenience stores are abundant. This is the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, sometimes called Marquette Park because of the 600 acre park located in the neighborhood.
While Western Avenue doesn't traverse Marquette Park, I was delighted to learn more about the park, which is located near to this stretch. The park is part of the plans for an entire system of 14 new parks developed in 1903 by the Olmsted Brothers (landscape architects). As a Chicagoan, I am in constant awe of the ambition of this plans--it's extraordinary to explore the parks and marvel at the beauty and sheer size of the places designed by the Olmsted Brothers.
Marquette Park is the largest of the southwest side parks. It is bounded by 67th and 71st Streets to the north and south, and California and Central Park to the east and west. It's a 600-acre sprawl of green real estate, beautifully maintained, that includes soccer and baseball fields, a 9-hole golf course and a bridge and lagoon. In fact, the lagoon is featured in "The Blues Brothers" movie. Jake and Elwood forced Nazi demonstrators off a bridge into the Marquette Park lagoon.
Have you visited Marquette Park?