Renaissance Park Sculpture Fountain, 2001
1300 West 79th Street
When Mayor Richard M. Daley dedicated this one-acre park, he stated that, “The area, which was once ignored and run-down, has begun a new era, a renaissance, of exciting change." In 2000, the city transferred a derelict site in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood to the Chicago Park District for the creation of a passive park (no ball playing, no skateboarding). It was named in honor of its symbolic and physical importance to the improving community.
Kenar's sculpture is the centerpiece of the park. Black granite spheres in a pyramidal pile represent significant African American figures. The names of eleven significant people who made important contributions to music, literature, sports, politics, and social change are incised into the individual stones. Among the names are Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, "father of modern Chicago blues" musician Muddy Waters and Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, regarded as the first permanent resident of Chicago. Water flows from the sculpture down a path toward a tall black granite plinth. This "river" represents a spring of positive change symbolically allowing love and positive energy to flow through the entire community.
Polish-born artist Jerzy Kenar (born 1948) lived in Sweden before emigrating to the United States in 1979 and opening the Wooden Gallery in Chicago in 1980. As well as large scale wooden sculptures, he also produces works of bronze and stone. Kenar may be best known for religious sculpture and liturgical furnishings throughout the United States, including works in Chicago such as the Millennium Doors at Holy Trinity Church, Afrocentric furniture at St. Sabina Church, the holy water font at Loyola University's Madonna della Strada Chapel and the crucifix at St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, Indiana. In 2005, in response to owners who do not clean up after their dogs in his neighborhood, Kenar installed a piece entitled Shit Fountain in front of a residence at 1001 North Wolcott Avenue at Augusta. In an interview with TimeOut Chicago, Kenar noted that no one complained to him about the fountain, a three-foot-high column of concrete and sandstone with an immediately recognizable coiled mound of bronze on top.