Chicago is home to the greatest collection of outdoor stone carvings in urban America. Generations of beach-going carvers whiling away the hours left their marks on huge limestone blocks installed during the Depression to improve and protect the city’s park-lined lakefront. Many of these anonymous carvings have been destroyed as part of more recent anti-erosion projects. But the stretch of shoreline between Bryn Mawr and Montrose Avenues still boasts dozens of these small wonders — animals, bathing beauties, presidents, deities, buildings and, of course, initials, names and eternal professions of love.
It’s the best public art that no one sees. They’re easy to miss and mostly invisible to the hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans who frequent nearby Foster and Montrose beaches. Once you’ve seen a few of them, however, you can’t help but notice more and more of the stone images as you walk along the lakefront.
Aron Packer and I will be leading a tour on behalf of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art on Oct. 11 at 10:30 a.m. We’ll meet at the Foster Avenue Beach house, at the southwest corner of the beach. From there we’ll explore the carvings north of the beach, and then proceed back toward Montrose. Click Intuit’s Facebook event page to sign up.
Here is a preview of what we’ll be seeing. You can also visit my fuller account from 2002.