Explore the natural beauty of Jackson Park through dance and visual art on the wooded island this weekend

HYDE PARK – Visitors to Jackson Park can create, observe and participate in visual art and dance this weekend as two South Side artists lead an afternoon of creativity on Wooded Island.

In Place: Drawing You Outside is a collaboration between Hyde Park-based dance artist Irene Hsiao and visual artist based in South Loop Christine Forni.

Participants can create works of art using charcoal pressed from fallen sticks collected from Jackson Park while Forni leads a guided tour of the Wooded Island trails.

Courtesy of the creators, the pieces will be shown at an open house on October 16 at Mana Contemporary, 2233 S. Throop St., the Pilsen art center where Hsiao and Forni met.

Dancers and musicians will perform pieces created by Hsiao along the route, in Yoko Ono’s “Skylanding” installation and in the Phoenix Garden.

Sessions are 4-6pm Saturday-Sunday and start at the southern entrance to Wooded Island near Hayes and Cornell drives. The program includes a 1 mile walk, and participants requiring accommodation can email adatsai14@gmail.com.

People who join after 4:00 p.m. can take the Nancy C. Hays Bridge at the northern end of the island to the Jardin du Phénix, where a park employee will be on hand to help you.

To register for the free event, Click here.

“Everyone who joins this performance is an artist in my opinion,” Hsiao said. “We all come to this space to create something together.”

Credit: Provided
Christine Forni pressed dozens of charcoal sticks using fallen branches from Wooded Island for attendees to create art during “In Place: Drawing You Outside.”

In Place: Drawing You Outside mixes two existing projects led by Hsiao and Forni.

Hsiao, whose dance practice is “heavily inspired by the visual arts”, said her In Place project is inspired by her experience with the immersive installation “Passage” at Mana Contemporary last year.

Dancers Helen Lee, Amanda Maraist, Wannapa P-Eubanks and Darling “Shear” Squire will join musicians Menghua Guan, Olula Negre and Scott Rubin for performances “that cross a pretty big area” around the island this weekend, Hsiao said.

In Place: Drawing You Outside is a participatory art form, so Hsiao hopes attendees will be “moved by moving with us” as dancers and musicians perform, she said.

“For me, dancing is a form of slow observation – knowing a space, knowing others,” Hsiao said. “Ultimately, I’m inspired by seeing what happens when unexpected elements come together. I just hope people have that experience as a community during this performance.

Forni’s Drawing You Outside project is rooted in his work assisting painter Chloe Briggs on Drawing is freea series that encourages people to draw and discover Parisian parks and gardens.

Forni’s project shares Briggs’ goal of promoting the accessibility of drawing, though Drawing You Outside was envisioned “more like an environmental project in the community,” Forni said.

“I decided to investigate how the experience could be a bit more [about getting] people to come out,” she said.

Together, the two artists will “activate” Wooded Island this weekend by encouraging neighbors to engage and reflect on the landscape, they said.

It’s a particularly popular setting for Hsiao, who “went there every day at the very beginning of the pandemic, when everything was closed”, she said. Her practice of walking and dancing outdoors in Jackson Park has also led to the creation of a community art project across the Smart Art Museumwho encouraged others to interact with the place and create videos and artwork in response.

“The paths I walked [them] every season,” Hsiao said. “I feel like I’ve seen every plant grow and decay. It’s both familiar and unfamiliar terrain to me, because it’s constantly changing, and anyone in space is changing it.

Although Forni was not such a frequent visitor, she celebrated Wooded Island and other natural areas on the south side, such as Grand Marais Park, which offer visitors the chance “to be in the city, but to be swallowed up by nature”, she said.

Forni this week pressed dozens of charcoal sticks into branches around Wooded Island — a tool that will make the connection between the park and its visitors evident as they draw, she said. Participants will also receive a drawing board, paper and an eraser.

“I want them to feel an object that comes from this region, and while they study nature, they express what they hear, see, smell, poetically or draw what they see,” said Provided.

Amid a pandemic that has caused many Chicagoans to relying on nature in the face of social isolationIn Place: Drawing You Outside will provide an opportunity to enjoy the park with others, the artists said.

“It’s about being together, breathing together, being together, and how we can be together in a public space,” Hsiao said.

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