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New Ravenswood sculpture doubles as pollinator, bringing eco-diversity to a manufacturing hub

The “Pollinator Habitat” was one of four sculptures commissioned for the new sculpture garden in Ravenswood’s industrial corridor.

Emily Moorhead-Wallace filling up the sculpture with wood and other natural materials that will attract pollinators to nest. Friday, December 10, 2021
Artist Emily Moorhead-Wallace fills up her sculpture, “Pollinator Habitat,” with wood and other natural materials that will attract bees and other insects.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Artists Janet Austin and Emily Moorhead-Wallace want their art to not only catch the attention of residents but have a functional, environmental purpose. Their latest sculpture doubles as a pollinator, meeting the optimal dwelling needs of indigenous pollinators, solitary bees and other insects.

“In the urban environment, educating people about pollinators as well as giving a place for those pollinators to nest creates the best habitat overall for people and for the wildlife,” Moorhead-Wallace said.

It is made of corten steel, which can rust outdoors without deteriorating. “This will last longer than we will be alive,” Austin said.

The structure at Ravenswood and Sunnyside avenues carries a “goofiness” in its tree shape, Austin said, and features etchings of butterflies, squirrels, bees and bunnies. The style of the etchings are borrowed from Craftsman architecture, which is popular in the neighborhood.

The “Pollinator Habitat” is the final installation for the new Ravenswood Sculpture Garden. Established by the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce and Community Council, the sculpture garden is a series of six public art pieces sprawled across Ravenswood’s industrial corridor.

A manufacturing hub during the industrial boom in the early 1900s, artists and businesses have since laid down roots in the neighborhood and the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce wanted to reflect that with the project.

“Artists and other businesses started to come into this industrial area where they could make noise and make whatever mess they wanted, and have a little bit more free rein around here,” said Amy Czarkowski, the project manager at the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce. “We have a really, really heavy arts-focused community here along the corridor. And the sculptures are really for us to be able to highlight that.”

Work on the Ravenswood Sculpture Garden began in 2019. Four of the six sculptures were commissioned for the project. A panel of arts professionals and local business owners picked the pieces from among 60 proposals. Community members had input about where the sculptures would be installed.

Ed Kaczmarek was on the selection committee. The “Pollinator Garden” is outside his business, the Urban Pooch Canine Life Center, in his community garden.

When Urban Pooch opened doors 11 years ago, he installed the community garden to “be a good steward to the environment” and bring extra beauty to the neighborhood. The “Pollinator Garden” sculpture does much of the same.

“We just happened to hit the crescendo that our gardens are eco-friendly, and so is the sculpture. Even if it wasn’t an eco-friendly sculpture, we want to promote the beauty of the neighborhood to bring people in to explore it,” Kaczmarek said. “Ravenswood is a neighborhood that deserves to be explored.”