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We return to Chicago, this time in good weather, to experience all of the tremendous outdoor art experiences the city has to offer. We saw a lot:

The Franklin:
Exhibiting works by: Onajide Shabaka, Yanira Collado and Juana Valdes
Edra Soto:
Garfield Park Conservatory:
Inspiration Kitchens:
The 606:
Chakaia Booker:
Tony Tasset's Snow Sculpture:
Frank Quintero:
Justin Hager:
Jesse Malmed:
Raven Falquez Munsell:
Trunk Show:
Alberto Aguilar:
Picasso's Untitled Chicago Sculpture:
Dubuffet's Monument with Standing Beast:
Tony Tasset's Artists Monument:
Millenium Park:
Jaume Plensa:
Dan Peterman:
Anish Kapoor:

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Sarah: We just can't resist the siren song of Chicago. We've been here a bunch, including a few months ago when it was cold and windy and rainy and we had to stay inside. But here we are once again, this time on a glorious summer day.

Our first stop was the Franklin, an artist run project space in East Garfield Park. It's in the backyard of the home of artist Edra Soto, who you see here, and Dan Sullivan. It's a modular pavilion for exhibitions and events. And they bring in a wide range of artists and curators to program the space.

We saw a show curated by William Cordova focused on three Miami based artist whose works in various ways investigate algorithmic phenomenon. The Franklin operates year round, believe it or not, welcoming neighbors and artists and anyone interested to come and enjoy the new work in an intimate, open, and unpretentious setting.

While we are in the neighborhood, we stopped at Garfield Park Conservatory to see their installation of works by the group Luftwerk, a collaboration between artists Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero. The mirrored portal greets you as you enter the Fern Room, floating above the reflection pool and drawing you in while also redirecting your views outward to the surrounding flora. In the Show House we entered Fluorescence, a canopy of petal shaped filters inspired by the blue and red spectrums of sunlight that plants use for photosynthesis. And then in Horticulture Hall we came upon Seed of Light, a kinetic chandelier of circular trays that catch drops of water accompanied by sounds that correspond to each drop.

These works do for me what such art installations in non-art places are supposed to do, reinvigorate this space and bring attention to what's already there, like the corpse flower they had on display surrounded by Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. Which for me both worshipped Persephone and also made me appreciate the color of the koi in the pond. Ideally, both sides prosper, the art and what was already there. Improved by each other, giving you a reason to come back and notice new things.

Then we had a quick lunch down the street at Inspiration Kitchen, where thoughtful locally sourced dishes are prepared and served by students and graduates of a training program designed to help Chicagoans get jobs and exit homelessness and poverty. You think about none of this as you stuff your face with biscuits and molasses butter.

Next we stopped at the 606, an elevated trail and park system that cuts across Chicago's northwest side to see a piece by Chakaia Booker over Damon Avenue. It's one of a series of temporary artworks installed along the trail and is exemplary of Booker's work which transforms discarded tires into astounding large scale sculptures.

Then we tried and failed to capture Tony Tasset's Snow Sculpture for Chicago in the window of the old Goldblatt's building. It's a re-creation in polystyrene of a dirty pile of snow. And I love the gesture of immortalizing and preserving such a lowly but nevertheless interesting thing we all encounter. You'll have to trust me.

On the way, we ran into a mural by Frank Quintero and these awesome window displays at The Annex by Justin Hagar. I mean Eazy E equals Mc squared, Kurt and Ernie, Mike Tyson eating chicken and waffles with his pet tiger with a Rothko in the background. If you haven't seen these, you're welcome.

Then we met up with artist Jesse Malmed who curates Trunk Show, a mobile exhibition space that shows commissioned artist bumper stickers. He pulled up in is '99 Taurus and talked us through the past catalog of stickers available for $5 each, as well as one they were about to unveil by Alberto Aguilar. It's an excellent, well considered, and delightfully democratic project that disperses small but powerful works throughout the city. I bought several.

We decided to head downtown to take in Picasso's enormous untitled steel sculpture in Daley Plaza. Picasso had never visited the city, but accepted the job regardless. Saying, "you know I never accept commissions to do any sort of work, but in this case I'm involved in projects for the two great gangsters cities. "When it was unveiled in 1967, Mayor Daley said "We dedicate this celebrated work this morning with the belief that what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow." And it was indeed strange to Chicagoans who speculated as to its subject matter.

While it's largely understood to be the head of a woman, people saw in it an Afghan hound dog, a baboon, or the Egyptian ancient deity Anubis. Famed columnist Mike Royko said of it, "interesting design I'm sure. But the fact is, it has a long, stupid face and looks like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect. Its eyes are like the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak, And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible. You'd think he'd been riding the L all his life." But this piece is no longer strange. Quite the contrary. It's now a fixture of downtown Chicago, which kids love to slide down and where people like to congregate.

Just around the corner we said a quick hello to Jean Dubuffet's Monument with Standing Beast, which the artist described as a drawing that extends into space, before heading to Grant Park, where we gave a tip of the hat to the iconic Buckingham Fountain. And passed a rather lonely Abe Lincoln, looks suspicious and kind of angry, so we left him alone.

We were there to check out Tony Tasset's Artists Monument, which from a distance looks like LEGOs or a regular old Minimalist sculpture. But closer up it reveals itself to display the names of nearly 400,000 artists, famous and unfamous, arranged alphabetically. While it most certainly calls to mind other monuments, Tasset has said he quote, "wanted it to be as unlike the Vietnam memorial or other somber memorials of tragedies. It's a celebration of artists and creativity."

I love that it erases the usual hierarchies between artists. And more importantly, shows the glorious multitude of artists in the world. After all, how many artists, living or otherwise, can most people name?

No Chicago public art tour is complete without a stop at Millennium Park. We first went by Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain, comprised of a shallow black granite reflecting pool with too tall glass brick towers on either end that emit water and have LED screens that display the recorded faces of a thousand Chicagoans.

Plensa was inspired by the use of gargoyles as water spouts in old fountains. And well, you see what happens. I don't personally want to be spit on by the people of Chicago, but kids love this. And there is really no way to argue that this thing is it's hugely successful.

On our way to our final stop, we literally ran into Dan Peterman's fantastic Running Table, a 100 foot long picnic table open for all to use. It's made of recycled plastic, the equivalent of two million milk bottles, and is intended as a comment on the futility of a recycling system that itself creates waste. It's temporarily installed in front of Anish Kapoor's magnificent Cloud Gate, aka "the Bean." Which has consistently drawn crowds in all weather since it was revealed to the public in 2004.

Its perfectly polished stainless steel surface reflects the tremendous city around it as well as you, your friends, and the many strangers about you. This is what public art is all about, folks. It's that thing we were talking about earlier where the art makes the place better and the place makes the art better. It's social, putting you in close contact with the many others peering into it with their eyes and their phones. But also provides you with a moment of intimacy with the sculpture when you go underneath it and see the trippy reflections its shape creates.

But just when you think you can't take anymore of the matting crowd, you notice that most of what it reflects is sky. And your gaze turns up and out and you're safely back in your own thoughts, your own space. And you're ready to be back as a free agent in the city. And what a city it is.