Margate Park Playground

Title:  Margate Park Playground

Site:  Margate Park, 4921 N. Marine Drive, Chicago

Artists:  Jim Brenner, Corinne D. Peterson, Ginny Sykes, and Roman Villareal

Assisting Artist: Sonata Kazimieratiene

Community Participants: Dozens of adult and youth volunteers helped create the ceramic mural and mosaic inlays.

Sponsors:  Alderman Mary Ann Smith of the 48th Ward, the Chicago Park District, and Chicago Public Art Group

Year:  2004

Scale:  1400 square feet

Materials:  Non-ferrous metal sculptures, hand-made ceramic mural, ceramic tile mosaic inlays, and carved stone sculptures

Information:  In late 2003, Jon Pounds represented Chicago Public Art Group on a design team convened by the Chicago Park District and Smith Group, JJR to design a new playground for Margate Park. The intention of the design team was to create a new look for Chicago playgrounds by introducing artistic elements into the recreational environment. The designers and artists developed a playground that is a relaxing and interesting space for both the children and the adults who supervise them. Working within constraints of space and budget, the team designed accessible art pieces that function as play equipment and as seating modules. Referencing Margate Park’s proximity to Lake Michigan, the artworks represent plant and animal forms associated with water life.

Jim Brenner created a swarm of stainless steel butterflies, making a swirling entry archway to greet playground visitors. Deeper into the playground, Brenner positioned three giant bugs—a bee, a dragonfly, and a butterfly. These sculptures, mounted on flexible poles, float and flutter high above a blue “pond” drawn onto the parkscape by varying the color of the soft playground surface. The overlapping metal screens forming the 5-6 foot wingspans create fascinating moiré patterns against the sky and in the shadows on the ground.

In a portion of the pond set aside for very young children are Roman Villareal’s limestone sculptures of a fish, a frog, a snail, and a turtle. Perfectly proportioned for toddler play, the stone sculptures invite nestling into a quiet niche in the park.

Set into a curvilinear concrete retaining wall at the back edge of the playground is a ceramic mural created by volunteers working with Corinne Peterson. The mural colorfully depicts underwater life as imagined by the children and adults who created the design.

Ginny Sykes led a team of volunteers in the fabrication of a mosaic combining commercial ceramic tile and handmade ceramic elements. The mosaic design alternates geometric and organic shapes, wrapping around a large circular bench enclosing shade trees.

Margate Park is worth a visit for many reasons—the delight of children playing there and the restful environment and comfortable seating—encouraging adult supervision and attention to neighborhood children. The park is a strong example of how playground designers and artists can work together to create a visually rich and delightful environment when provided the opportunity by supportive municipal agencies and innovative political leaders.