Monday, October 7, 2013

Eagle Columns


Eagle Columns, 1989
Richard Hunt
Jonquil Park
Corner of West Wrightwood and North Sheffield Avenues

            Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and donations from local residents, these three angular, stylized eagle forms appear to be rising in various states of flight from the bronze pylons below. Created by Chicago-based sculptor Richard Hunt, this work commemorates politician John Peter Altgeld (Governor of Illinois 1893-1897) and was inspired by a 1913 poem by Nicholas Vachel Lindsay entitled “The Eagle That Is Forgotten.” Lindsay was a native of Springfield, Illinois and troubadour poet who spent years traveling without money and trading his poetry for food and shelter. He wrote the poem in honor of Altgeld’s principled decision in 1893 to pardon the three remaining men, out of the seven, convicted of murder and sentenced to death following the bombing at the Haymarket Riot in 1886. Although the trial is viewed today as a mockery of justice, Altgeld was criticized harshly at the time and it was not until after the publication of Lindsay’s poem that some citizens began to view the Governor as a forgotten hero. In 1915, a figurative sculpture of Altgeld by Gutzon Borglum was erected in Lincoln Park.
            Hunt has produced a number of abstract welded-metal sculptures commemorating important figures from United States history, including works that honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in both Chicago and Memphis and an indoor installation entitled “Jacob’s Ladder” at the Carter G. Woodson public library on Chicago’s South Side. Woodson is considered the “father of black history” and Hunt’s works strive to respond to aspects of the site as well as the dynamics of the community. In the case of the Eagle Columns monument, the community reciprocated when the monument showed signs of deterioration, and the Wrightwood Neighbors Association worked with the Chicago Park District to conserve the work. It was rededicated in 2010 and features a new ramp and handrail, making it fully accessible.

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