Jackson Park Watch Update – October 24, 2016

Greetings all,

Yoko Ono’s sculpture “unveiled”

As JPW Update readers most certainly know, the Project 120/Yoko Ono “Sky Landing” sculpture was officially dedicated at a lavish invitation-only event on Wooded Island Monday Oct. 17; interested community members were actually turned away at the check-in point. JPW had been invited and Margaret attended (Brenda was away).  She reports that about 300 other people were there, the vast majority not local.  There was a long list of speakers, including Alderman Leslie Hairston, and of course Park District CEO Mike Kelly, the Mayor, Project 120 Bob Karr, and Yoko Ono herself, who gave brief comments.  No one from either the University or the Obama Foundation spoke or was acknowledged.  The program included an elaborate modern dance performance, live original music, and song.  It was quite a show.  But it is quite remarkable that this has occurred:  a private entity has been able to have a major permanent piece of art installed in a prominent location in a major historical Chicago public park without any notice to the public, without any public participation, and without leaving a trace in the public record.  Stealth privatization?

Wooded Island reopened

Wooded Island was reopened to the public the following Saturday Oct. 22, and there were quite a number of visitors both Saturday and Sunday.  The fencing remains up around the lagoon and the planting are very clearly both immature and incomplete. Apparently the Island itself will remain open even as the rest of the US Army Corps “GLFER” environmental restoration project continues.  At the moment, the Island south of Osaka Garden has been weed-whacked and tidied up, perhaps for the Yoko Ono event and subsequent opening to the public, and has lots of open space. Brenda and Margaret encourage everyone to go and check it all out, and to share any comments with the Park District’s “contact us” mailbox http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/contact or by writing Park District Superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly at the Chicago Park District, 541 N. Fairbanks Ct., Chicago 60611.

Mike Kelly responds – at last, but only partially

For several months, JPW has spoken during the “People in the Parks” forum that is part of the monthly meetings of the Park District Board, raising questions about Sky Landing, focusing on the seemingly mysterious process by which the Sky Landing sculpture installation was authorized, who paid for it, who owned it, and the like.  JPW presentations (two minutes only, as per Park District protocol) have been greeted with total silence until this past Wednesday (10/18), not even a “thank you for your interest.” But this past Wednesday Mike Kelly actually responded, at least in part, saying that the Sky Landing sculpture was donated by Yoko Ono and Project 120 and that while the Park District owns it, it will not pay for maintenance.  So at last we have confirmation of the actual source of the sculpture, information that all of our prior questions and FOIA requests had not to date been able to uncover.

We continue to look for the secret “paper” (or now digital) trail of the decisions that documented the donation and authorized the installation of the statue. It is inconceivable that there were no agreements, no matter how shielded from public view, and we need to uncover them.  Most significantly, at this point the precedent that appears to have been established is that a private entity – Project 120 in this instance – with sufficient funds can be given control of a part of a Chicago park and can install a project of its choosing in its own private part of that park.  This smells much like a back door form of privatization, and we fear the consequences: will we wake up one day to find that construction of Project 120’s proposed pavilion has begun?

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch


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Jackson Park Watch Update – October 7, 2016

Greetings all,

Yoko Ono sculpture update

Unanswered questions remain concerning how a private entity (Project 120) could have erected a permanent sculpture on Wooded Island immediately adjacent to the Paul Douglas Nature Sanctuary. Nonetheless, the sculpture is there, and you can see a preview on www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch. The official “unveiling” is scheduled for Oct. 17, and will include an event on Wooded Island itself as well as an evening gathering at the Stony Island Arts Bank. We’ll share information as we know more.

Keeping in Touch

As previously noted, JPW coordinators are staying in touch with many individuals and groups that are focusing on planning for Jackson Park in the wake of the Obama Library siting.

Brenda and Margaret recently participated in several FOTP-convened discussions considering the increasingly frequent usage of Chicago’s public parks for private, for-profit activities. The many examples from parks across the city paint a distressing pattern of privatization and appropriation of public space to the exclusion of local residents and regular park users.

We also attended meetings organized by the coalition working to secure a Community Benefits Agreement with the Obama Presidential Foundation , the City and the University. The initiative has embraced as one of its Development Principles a commitment that directly aligns with JPW’s priorities:   to sustain, increase, upgrade and maximize green open space for local uses and local users.

Both the FOTP discussions and the CBA initiative highlight concerns that are central to JPW’s participants and indicate that these concerns are widely shared. The challenge is to move from discussion to actual solutions. In this effort, JPW will continue to push for Park District transparency and inclusive community engagement as essential elements in planning for Jackson Park.

Dog park comparison amazingly revealing

You may have noted the “Dogged determination” article on the front page of the 10/4/16 Tribune chronicling the major obstacles that the Park District has erected in the way of South Siders wanting to have dog parks south of 18th Street. (Here is the link to the article as it appeared online — http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-dog-parks-south-side-met-20161003-story.html). This is yet another example of disparities between park facilities on the north and south sides. It also offers a fascinating comparison between the obstacles facing regular Chicagoans wanting amenities in their parks and the special treatment afforded Project 120 as it installed the permanent Yoko Ono sculpture on Wooded Island in Jackson Park. Take a look below!

A comparison that speaks volumes:

CPD requirements for (regular) Chicagoans to establish a dog park in a Chicago park


CPD requirements for the private, not-for-profit Project 120 to erect a permanent sculpture by Yoko Ono on Wooded Island in historic Jackson Park adjacent to a nature sanctuary




Location Mandated by Park District Chosen by Project 120
Application process Residents committee must submit application Secret, if any
Site requirements Must be close to water and sewer, distant from neighbors, have open and shaded areas, not adjacent to nature areas Site chosen by Project 120 (adjacent to Douglas Nature Sanctuary) no known requirements
Mandated show of community support Petition from community; letters of support from alderman, others; three public meetings; other requirements None
Financing Funding plan as part of application. Residents committee must raise 100% of the funding to build and maintain the park (est. $150,000 ). Unknown who paid for the sculpture, the site preparation, and the installation or will pay for maintenance. Is some or all at taxpayer expense?
Building and maintenance Layout plan and maintenance plan as part of application; permanent residents committee to provide ongoing maintenance No record of any CPD review or action other than site survey and construction crew permits.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
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