PORTAGE PARK — A nearly 10-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture designed to encourage people to seek actual — rather than virtual experiences — has been installed in the Six Corners Shopping District as part of this year's Chicago Sculpture Exhibit, organizers said.
Peoria-based sculptor Fisher Stolz said "Phenomenon" was inspired in part by a college philosophy course taken by his son.
"A phenomenon is an extraordinary event, like an eclipse," said Stolz, who is participating in the exhibit for the second year. "I wanted it to have a lot of dynamic energy, with curves and conjunctions."
Stolz finished the sclupture just hours before it was installed Thursday evening in front of 4901 W. Irving Park Road, on the western edge of the Six Corners business district.
The Six Corners Business Association contributed $3,500 to sponsor the sculpture, which will remain in the shopping district for one year — unless someone buys and agrees to maintain it, said Eric Craig, one of the exhibit's organizers.
Stolz will get a $1,500 stipend and $2,000 will go to the Chicago Sculpture Exhibit for marketing and additional costs, Craig said.
The Chicago Sculpture Exhibit was founded in 2002, and focused on Lincoln Park and Lakeview before expanding its focus to the entire city in 2012. After a kickoff party scheduled for June 27, trolleys will take art aficionados on a tour of all of the sculptures, said Craig, a professional photographer.
Ed Bannon, the executive director of the business association, said the sculpture will help the area's effort to become the downtown of the Northwest Side — and regain a measure of its former glory as the premier shopping district outside the Loop.
"We have had a great experience with art as an economic stimulator," Bannon said. "It makes the area somewhere you want to be."
Bannon said "Phenomenon" — which the association picked for the area — makes him think of space.
"It is beautiful and dynamic," Bannon said. "It draws my eye upward. That's what art is supposed to do, I think."
Cyd Smillie, the arts liasion for Ald. John Arena (45th), said "Phenomenon" complements the "Portage" sculpture a few blocks east near Cicero Avenue near Irving Park Road despite their differences.
The corner of Irving Park Road and Lamon Avenue is well suited for the statue, which includes a parklet that features some benches and trees, Smillie said.
With pop-up performances taking place in the parklet on the third Fridays of the month during the summer, the area is becoming an "arts hot spot," Smillie said.
"It is really exciting," Smillie said.
The presence of the sculpture will motivate people to get out and linger outside, Smillie said.
Arena, who is up for re-election next year, has been working to turn the 45th Ward into an arts and culture mecca in an effort to reverse decades of decline and to fill empty storefronts.
Stolz said he was thrilled to be a part of the nascent renaissance of Six Corners, especially as his more than 20-year career as sculptor has been dedicated to encouraging people to have visceral and unique experiences.
The former Bank of America building at 4901 W. Irving Park Road has been vacant for nearly four years, as a plan to turn it into a grocery store has been stuck in limbo for more than a year as owner Mike Bousis and Arena debate whether the original building — and a historic theater inside — can be salvaged.
This is the first year Jefferson Park and Portage Park have participated in the Chicago Sculpture Exhibit. "Twin Souls" by Gus and Lina Ocamposilva was installed near Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues May 29 as part of the exhibit.
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