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Yoko Ono's Long-Awaited Art Piece Starts With These Hills in Jackson Park

By Sam Cholke | June 12, 2015 2:04pm | Updated on June 15, 2015 8:29am
 Yoko Ono's
Yoko Ono's "SKY LANDING" sculpture in Jackson Park will be installed between two sweeping hills that look almost like waves.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — Yoko Ono was in Jackson Park Friday to help bless an area she will turn into a new artwork called "SKY LANDING," which will sit on two new grass-covered hills inspired by what she calls the healing aspect of the sky.

The art piece, Ono's first permanent work in the United States, will be on the new hills seated outside the Osaka Japanese Garden. It will be a place of congregation and contemplation, organizers said.

"It's almost like between Chicago and Japan there is this incredible opening of the heart," Ono said at the ground blessing Friday. "The intensity is insane and I thought it was incredible."

 Yoko Ono helped unveil the site of her new
Yoko Ono helped unveil the site of her new "Skylanding" sculpture in Jackson Park on Friday.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

Art lovers will have to wait to get a glimpse of "SKY LANDING." The work will not be done until June 2016.

The site is currenly within a gated area closed to the public while the Army Corps of Engineers completes a $8.1 million restoration of Jackson Park's natural areas, so the curious won't get much of a chance to watch "SKY LANDING" take shape.

The site was unveiled at a private ceremony Friday on Wooded Island and the event was punctuated by the sounds of a traditional Japanese drumming group playing with a jazz ensemble while Ono, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Japanese dignitaries looked on.

"SKY LANDING" is the first public art component of a larger plan to restore the garden and build a $10 million visitors center nearby in Jackson Park.

The garden, originally built for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, has been preserved by Garden of the Phoenix, headed by Robert Karr. The organization brought in Ono as part of a larger initiative to revive the Phoenix pavilion and rebuild a temple, built for the 1893 fair, that was burned down by vandals more than 70 years ago.

"Chicago has been opening its heart to Japan for a very long time," said the 82-year-old widow of late Beatle John Lennon, while standing outside the formal Japanese garden, which turns 120 years old this year. "When you give something, you're supposed to get temples back."

A traditional Japanese drumming group was joined by a jazz ensemble to bless the site for Ono's artwork.

Karr called the site "one of the most important sites in the history of American and Japanese relations" at the dedication ceremony Friday.

He said the park's original designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, personally granted permission for a group of Japanese carpenters to build the temple on the Wooded Island, which ran contrary to his original vision.

"Olmsted envisioned the island unencumbered by buildings as a refuge from the bustle of the city," Karr said.

Karr convinced Ono to be part of the project to revive the garden "like a phoenix" after she visited the Japanese garden during a trip to Chicago several years ago.

He said Ono told him she felt a connection to the place personally because it exists as both American and Japanese, but not distinctly either.

At the center of Karr’s efforts to improve Jackson Park is a $10 million visitors center that will be built on south of the parking lots behind the Museum of Science and Industry where the music court stood during the World’s Fair.

The center of Project 120 and Garden of the Phoenix's plans to improve Jackson Park is a $10 million new visitors center. [Courtesy of wHY]

Karr has brought in an expert on Frederick Law Olmsted to make sure any plans for the park maintain the original designer’s vision for the park.

The projects coincide with an $8.1 million effort to restore the natural areas of the park by the Army Corps of Engineers.

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