Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Spirit of Du Sable Sculpture Garden

The Spirit of Du Sable Sculpture Garden
Ausbra Ford, Geraldine McCullough, Jill Parker, Ramon Berell Price, and Lawrence E. Taylor, 1978
The Du Sable Museum of African American History
740 East 56th Place near Cottage Grove

Co-founded in 1961 in the Bronzeville neighborhood by prominent artist, writer and activist Margaret Burroughs (1915-2010), the Du Sable Museum of African American History is the oldest museum in the United States showcasing African and African American history and culture. It moved into its present location in a former park administration building in Washington Park in 1971. The museum is named for Jean-Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, a Haitian of African and French descent considered to be the first permanent non-Indian settler in Chicago.
            In 1977, the Museum received a grant from the Community Development and Housing Committee to remodel the sunken garden north of the museum and to commission five artists to interpret the “spirit of Du Sable” in abstract sculptural forms. Unveiled and dedicated on September 22, 1978, the five works were to be maintained by the Chicago Park District and they joined a bronze bust of Du Sable by Robert Jones cast in 1971 and displayed outside the museum’s entrance.
            Unfortunately, in July and August of 1983, two of the works were stolen. The 6-foot tall, 200-pound bronze kneeling figure by Ramon Price, half-brother of then-Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, was severed from its cement pedestal in late July and, three weeks later, the bronze bust by Jones was removed from the front porch after thieves broke apart its hollow marble base. Additionally, the piece by Geraldine McCullough, created out of welded sheet copper, brass and polyester resin, has been damaged and is missing an upper portion intended to capture the “beauty of the waves of Lake Michigan.”
            The remaining intact pieces include Ford’s elongated square-headed human form made of sheet aluminum, which equates Du Sable’s strength with Chicago’s economic growth; Parker’s rectilinear work of stainless steel rods that surround solid blocks, which refer to three major periods in Chicago’s history that began with Du Sable’s settlement; and Taylor’s abstract curvilinear forms crafted from aluminum and stainless steel that suggest Chicago’s growth and continuing development.

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