Monday, September 1, 2008

Grant Park: Theodore Thomas Memorial / The Spirit of Music Statue - by Albin Polasek

Theodore Thomas Memorial / The Spirit of Music Statue ..
Location: Chicago’s Grant Park on the corner of Balbo and South Michigan Avenue, near the Hilton Hotel.

Sculptor: Albin Polasek
Architect: Howard Van Doren Shaw
Completed: 1923
Commissioned by the B.F. Ferguson Monument Fund, as a memorial to Theodore Thomas [1835-1905], first conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO)..

The bronze statue depicts the “Lady of Music, Art, Prose, Poetry and Drama”.
From the City of Chicago Official Tourism Website .. click here ..
The Spirit of Music is a memorial to Theodore Thomas (1835-1905), first conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). German-born Thomas was a nationally respected violinist and conductor who settled in Chicago in 1889 to help establish the city's first permanent orchestra. After his orchestra played in the Auditorium Theater for many years, Thomas achieved his dream of building Orchestra Hall, designed by architect Daniel H. Burnham. Theodore Thomas dedicated the new building in December of 1904, but died only a few weeks later.

The B.F. Ferguson Fund commissioned the sculpture which was erected and unveiled in the south garden of the Art Institute facing Orchestra Hall in 1924. Albin Polasek (1879-1965), an internationally renowned sculptor who had emigrated from Czechoslovakia, and American architect Howard Van Doren Shaw (1869-1926) created the artwork. It featured a bronze figure of a muse that stood in front of a forty-foot long granite exedra and bench with a carved freize depicting Thomas and the orchestra members in relief.

Polasek intended this personification of music to have "the majesty and sweep" of a symphony and to be "dignified yet simple, assertive but not bold...a feminine figure…but not too feminine." The goddess figure has just struck a chord on her lyre. The hemispherical base is embellished with reliefs illustrating the power of music.

Over the years, the sculpture was moved to several different locations in Grant Park. By the 1940s, the orginial granite exedra and bench had been separated from the bronze sculpture and placed in storage. A lakefront jogger discovered pieces of the carved granite exedra that had been dumped amidst the riprap along the edge of Lake Michigan in the early 1990s. The Chicago Park District soon retrieved the pieces, restored the sculpture and exedra and installed them in a new location at Balbo Drive and Michigan Avenue. The Chicago Park District created a new Spirit of Music Garden surrounding the sculpture and in recent years this has become the venue for Summer Dance, a popular annual outdoor music and dance series ...

A carved freize depicting Thomas and the orchestra members in relief.

The engravings read ...
"Scarcely any man in any land has done so much about musical education of the people as did Thodore Thomas in this country. The nobility of his deals with the magnitude of his achievement will assure him everlasting glory. 1835-1905."

I love the relief at the hemispherical base of the sculpture, illustrating the power of music.

The Spirit of Music Garden ..
The Spirit of Music Garden surrounding the sculpture is the venue for Chicago's Summer Dance. In fact, the Spirit of Music Garden was developed and landscaped especially for the Summer Dance and received a Gold Award from the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association.

The summer dance floor was designed by Dan Peterman, 1997 .. By making this dance floor out of recycled plastic, cell foam and other reusable materials, he showed that art can be eco-friendly and utilitarian at the same time.

Chicago Park District worked with Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Department of General Services, and the Mayor's Office of Special Events to create a garden that fulfilled program needs as well as a garden that was a unique draw in and of itself. The park district uses a combination of annuals and perennials that will guarantee a splash of color throughout the summer. The garden layout incorporates a geometric design that pulls the visitor into the center of the garden, where they can easily access all other areas. Classic-looking wooden umbrellas, tables and chairs circle the center of the garden, encouraging people to sit and enjoy their surroundings.

Quite nearby is the Solti Garden. Sir George Solti [1912-1997], was the director of Chicago Symphony Orchestra for more than two decades [1969 to 1991].. click here

For more on Grant Park ..
# Public Art in the Grant Park .. click here ....
# Gardens in the Grant Park .. click here ..
# Often overlooked but remarkable features like pedestrian crossings, the railway lines underneath, the street lamp posts, balustrade, corbels, the Y-symbols .. click here ..
# For a brief history of Grant Park .. click here ..

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