Chicago’s Celebrated Actors and Writers Unite to Give Voice to Statues Across the City
The city that launched America’s Cows on Parade plays host to Statue Stories Chicago, an extraordinary new public art exhibition. The statues will speak from August 6, 2015 through summer 2016. Funded by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Statue Stories Chicago is an innovative, free city-wide arts project that gives voice to some of Chicago’s most important statues and sculptures. From Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Park to the lions guarding the Art Institute of Chicago, from the eloquent Paul Laurence Dunbar to the giant Picasso, each has a story to tell. Collectively, they tell Chicago’s story.
British arts producers Sing London have worked with Chicago Park District, and Chicago’s leading theaters to create captivating monologues for a range of Chicago’s statues. They are situated across the city and its parks, from Lincoln Park on the north side, to Dunbar Park on the south, and from the Museum Campus on the lakefront, to Humboldt Park on the west side.
To hear the statues speak, swipe your smartphone on a nearby sign and get a “call back” from the statue. Some experiences are historic, others comic and others fictional. Ultimately, Statue Stories Chicago aims to persuade people to look at Chicago’s public artworks with new eyes. And ears! More information is available at www.statuestorieschicago.com.
“Chicago is home to an extraordinary collection of public art. In fact, the parks are a sort of outdoor museum,” says Kim Coventry, executive director of The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. “The foundation is pleased to provide a free and interactive opportunity to learn more about the city’s rich history and to discover a new dimension of our public parks through their often overlooked statues, memorials, and sculptures.”
Meet some of the statues:
● Elizabeth McGovern swaps the splendour of Downton Abbey to go further back in time as the Greek Goddess Hebe, who stands upon the Rosenberg Fountain
● By Shedd Aquarium Steve Carell gives voice to the statue of Man with Fish, scaling back on the fish jokes
● Shonda Rhimes voices Miró’s Chicago, telling us what it’s like to have a giant fork sticking out of your head
● Bob Newhart creates and voices a monologue for a statue of… Bob Newhart! He is perhaps the first person to give voice to his own statue
● Does the passing public pout or preen? David Schwimmer takes on the role of
Cloud Gate, revealing what the Bean has actually seen
● Renee Fleming captures The Spirit of Music, revealing how a city of hog butchers learned to love classical music and opera
● John C. Reilly animates Scott Turow‘s monologue for Standing Lincoln
● Johnny Galcki of The Big Bang Theory swaps physics for astronomy, giving voice to the great Copernicus
● Bill Kurtis animates Montgomery Ward, the entrepreneur who battled the city to preserve Chicago’s lakefront
● In Lincoln Park, Jack McBrayer plays up the lighter side of a young
● Malcolm London pays tribute to the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar in a literary mash up that crosses generations
● Bob Balaban gives resonance to Haym Salomon, the patriotic Jewish financier and principal funder of the American Revolution
● Is it a bird? Is it a crane? Or a horse with no name? Playwright
Mickle Maher writes the monologue and Tony Award-winning actress
Deanna Dunagan gives voice to the mysterious being that is Chicago’s
● Luis Valdez is the inner voice of Benito Juarez, Mexico’s famous leader who feels his name has been taken in vain
● Oz Park is in Chicago, not Kansas but to Dorothy, it feels like home.
Lookingglass Theatre breathes new life into three of L. Frank Baum’s famous characters
“Most of us hardly notice the statues around us,” says producer Colette Hiller. “
Statue Stories Chicago seeks to change this. We’ve engaged a stellar line-up of Chicago’s finest writers and actors, ready to put themselves in the shoes — or in some cases the paws! — of Chicago’s statues.”
“Chicago Park District is pleased to be part of this imaginative project,” said Mike Kelly, general superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District. “As visitors spend time listening to the statues, we hope they will go on to explore the hundreds of artworks in our parks.”
“I could hardly resist the opportunity to give the Bob Newhart statue something to say for himself!” — Actor Bob Newhart
“Statue Stories Chicago is a lovely idea that brings a sense of intimacy and personality to the statues that surround us all.” — Actress Elizabeth McGovern
“Statue Stories is an embodiment of Steppenwolf’s passion — telling stories that make us think harder, laugh longer and feel more. To experience our culturally vibrant city through this new lens is truly unique.” — David Schmitz Managing Director, Steppenwolf
Media sponsorship is provided by Chicago Public Radio Station WBEZ 91.5 FM.
Statues can’t just talk by themselves you know!
The city-wide project is delivered with in-kind support from its cultural partners including: the Art Institute of Chicago, The Chicago Park District, The Chicago Public Library, The Chicago Tribune, Choose Chicago, The Cultural Mile, The Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, The Field Museum, The Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company, The Millennium Park Foundation, Shedd Aquarium, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and The Second City. Support with casting and recording comes from Audible.com. Statue Stories Chicago are powered by cultural technologists Antenna Lab.
Statue Stories Chicago is produced by Sing London, a non-profit UK based arts organisation whose projects aspire to lift the public’s spirit. Sing London’s work strives to connect people to the public spaces we all share. Past projects include London’s Street Pianos Project, and Ping!, which saw 1,000 ping pong tables installed in public spaces across England. Most recently they produced
Talking Statues London. For more information visit www.singlondon.org
THE RICHARD H. DRIEHAUS FOUNDATION seeks to improve Chicago’s built environment, to enhance the city through the arts, to use investigative reporting to strengthen democracy, and to ameliorate the effects of low wages on the working poor. For more information visit www.driehausfoundation.org.
Give a Statue a Voice! — A public writing competition: Three statues await the gift of speech; a maiden behind the Art Institute of Chicago, a cow who’s lost its herd, a fountain named after one of the Great Lakes, and a Brachiosaurus by The Field Museum. The Goodman Theatre is overseeing a public competition to script these pieces. The winning entrieswill be recorded by prestigious theatre members and will speak in time for Easter 2016. For more information go to