Initially, APL will build and explore the capacity of the Arts Lawn by extending existing programming. Teenagers participating in APL’s youth arts education programs will have the opportunity to meet outside for workshops and even showcase their work on the Arts Lawn.
Tranquil space for reflection
The Arts Lawn is intended to be both a programming space for a wide variety of arts events and a green space for the community. Taking a deliberate approach to the expansion of outdoor programming will allow APL to assess the balance between specific events and general access.
“The intention for the Arts Lawn isn’t just activity,” said Ferguson. “It’s also relaxation, quiet reflection, time in nature.”
The Arts Lawn is designed as a flexible space, with an open eastern portion of meandering paths that loop around the main lawn and a more structured western section that includes an open-air pavilion and a vending area. The entire area is wheelchair accessible and built to remove any barriers to access, with the goal that everyone should feel comfortable to make the space their own.
Less obvious on casual examination—but no less important—is the Arts Lawn’s commitment to green infrastructure. The space is equipped with a self-sustaining water management system that utilizes plantings, soil, and a series of underground structures including retention bins and subgrade gravel to collect and recirculate rainwater. This means that the Lawn is fully separate from the sewer system of the City of Chicago, avoiding further stress on local infrastructure.
Grand opening of the space
The Arts Lawn’s opening event on Oct. 7 did more than simply inaugurate the space.
“Public and community is the bread and butter of what we do,” said Ferguson. “We decided to showcase different design elements of the space as a way to indicate how it will be used in the future.”
The event launched with a performance by Kuumba Lynx Youth and a welcome from MC Mario Smith, followed by a performance from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School marching band. After the opening ceremony, DJs from Miyagi Records provided the soundtrack for APL’s Vends + Vibes marketplace. The projection screen on the side of the Green Line Performing Arts Center was used for the first time for the premiere of D-Composed’s short film “Alter Call.”
“This experiment of what Arts + Public Life is on the Arts Block is only successful when there’s shared stewardship,” said Ferguson. “I know the Arts Lawn can be successful because so many people can activate it.
This story was adapted from the website of the UChicago Arts blog, In Practice.