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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