COOL CHICAGO: Oz Park
Summary: Local neighborhood park with statues of characters from The Wizard of Oz
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
Address: 2021 N. Burling St.
Best for: Kids, fans of quirky attractions or The Wizard of Oz
A lot of parklets around Chicago have statues of historic figures like Abe Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Oz Park is way cooler.
Here you’ll find Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. See, you don’t have to go all the way to Kansas to find the world of Oz! The Wonderful World of Oz was written in Chicago in 1900 by L. Frank Baum, so honoring the story with a local park makes sense.
The statues were created over the past 20 years by artist John Kearney. First up was the Tin Man, which he made from chrome car bumpers. In 2001 came the Lion, followed in 2005 by the Scarecrow and in 2007 by Dorothy and Toto. Those three sculptures were created from bronze.
The Tin Man is the most interesting piece because of the way it was made. The statue is nine feet tall and weighs 900 pounds. Kearney was once known for making art out of chrome bumpers, but he has stopped since those old chrome bumpers are obsolete these days, making the Tin Man one of his last bumper works.
Kearney was finishing up the Tin Man sculpture when a small girl wandered past and wondered why he didn’t have a heart. Realizing he had forgotten an important element of the character, the artist added a chrome heart to the sculpture.
Will there be any more Oz statues coming? Who knows, but personally, I’m holding out for a Wicked Witch.
Aside from the Oz statues, Oz Park is a pretty normal Chicago park, with tennis courts, baseball fields, a garden and park benches. They also show movies here in the summer. One of the selections this year was The Wiz, the 1978 reworking of the Wizard of Oz story that starred Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.