Friday, March 22, 2013

"To Oz?" "To Oz!" Oz Park That Is

Last week I spent a long weekend in the windy city of Chicago. It had been at least 20 years since my last visit, so I needed to study a map long and hard to get my bearings: big lake to the east, Frank Lloyd Wright architecture to the west, museums to the south, and what's that to the north? Oz Park. That's what my map said, so I started to walk, and walk, and walk, and then hailed a cab since it was so darn cold. I couldn't even bring myself to ask the cab driver to drop me at Oz Park, since I had no idea what we would find there, so I asked for an intersection a few blocks away and approached by foot.

It was charming. Opened in 1976, the small park was just over 13 acres and was built in a section of Lincoln Park to bring a bit of luster to a tarnishing part of the city. Turns out that L. Frank Baum lived just a few miles to the west in the 1890s, so the locals had an affinity for the man and his stories.

A statue of the Cowardly Lion (2001) by John Kearney (a Cranbrook-trained sculptor) greeted me as I approached from the south-east. Below the sculpture are yellow bricks marked with donor names. I decided to circumnavigate the park. My next stop was the Tin Man (1995), by the same artist, but this time created out of old car parts, the sculptor's signature medium.

From there I walked towards the center of the park and found the Scarecrow (2005) standing just inside a small fence that bordered The Emerald Garden. Next to nothing was in bloom, but I could imagine how pretty the small garden must be during the warmer months of the year. I walked past the children's play area, identified as Dorothy's Playlot to the north entrance to the park to find  Dorothy and Toto (2007) atop their pedestal. Although the sculpture was cast in bronze, the shoes were patinated a bright ruby red.

Satisfied with my find, I decided to walk back to downtown to find that the Chicago River had been dyed a bright Emerald City green--oh yeah, it was also the weekend of  St. Patrick's Day. Later that night, we met up with a real Chicagoan, Aaron Miller, a great artist who will be creating the artwork for our Wee Faerie Village in the Land of Oz, but that's for another blog entry.

David D.J. Rau
Director of Education and Outreach

David D.J. Rau coordinates as well as participates in the Museum’s October creative endeavors. You can contact him at

Upcoming Blog Entries:
  • Illustrating the Museum's October Events
  • Meet the Museum’s New Fantasy Illustrator Aaron Miller
  • Just C’Oz: Other Creative Endeavors Inspired by Oz

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