Park Ridge’s public art exhibit this summer is delighting children, and children at heart, with painted sculptures of fire trucks scattered around important points across the city.
The 10 colorful fiberglass truck models, large enough for young people to climb inside, are on display until 7 October and showcase the talents of local artists.
“They are so popular,” said Brian Lazzaro, vice president of the Park Ridge Historical Society, of the “Fire Trucks on Parade” exhibit. “So many children are on top of them and around them.”
Members of the Park Ridge Historical Society led an effort to repurchase a vintage 1934 fire truck, nicknamed “Lil ‘Pirsch,” and this led to artistic facsimiles of the vehicle throughout the city.
The historical company got Lil ‘Pirsch from the Memphis fire department two years ago, exhibiting the vintage fire truck in this year’s Memorial Day parade. Thus, when the creative idea for the sculptures exhibited in key locations in the city was born, the historians first came up with a fire truck.
“When we first bought Lil ‘Pirsch, we thought, wouldn’t it be cool to put fire trucks around town, like cows?” recalled Cheryl Williams, president of the historical society.
The search for Williams and Lazzaro was not long. They found Cowpainters LLC, a company in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood whose website advertises about 350 fiberglass model animals and objects. Cowpainters had a mold for a fire truck, Williams said, and the project got underway.
A red replica representing Lil ‘Pirsch was placed outside the Triple Scoop’d Ice Cream Shop on Devon Avenue with longtime Franklin School art teacher Kathy Hurley, the artist. Hurley also partnered with husband Peadar Hurley and friend Mary Ann Tunnell to paint royal blue and affix the woodwork – Peadar Hurley’s specialty – to the truck outside Starbucks to honor the Park Ridge artists. One of the commemorated artists was Grant Wood of “American Gothic” fame.
Other locations for trucks and artists are Park Ridge History Center (Aiden Gentile), Pickwick Theater (Abby Pinkerton), Trader Joe’s parking lot (Miranda Randel), St. Paul of the Cross Church (Jill Pinsky), Metra (Randel), Hodges Park (Mark Zimmerman), the Public Library (Alayna McKim) and Centennial Park (Michelle Krause).
Along with the classic Lil ‘Pirsch red color, all trucks had depictions of the story in their locations painted with links to the historical society website. The artists had ample room for maneuver with their depictions.
“I just said put the story on the trucks and they took off with it,” Williams said.
Triple Scoop’d didn’t have a specific historical angle. “But they helped us with the Santa Claus event at Christmas and served hot chocolate to the attendees,” Lazzaro said.
Pinkerton, just 18 and a lifelong resident of Park Ridge, had a simple representation of the Pickwick in his truck. He painted films on his body.
“It was fun and interesting, and a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m honored. It was a challenge. I used acrylic paints.”
Pinkerton is not yet pursuing art as a career. She is a student of the Loyola Academy, she is enrolled to study biomedical engineering at the University of Miami. But she had experience painting monthly signs and stars at the TeaLula tea shop.
For Hurley, a 32-year-old art teacher at Franklin School, the two trucks were an opportunity to show her students that she was a practitioner as well as an instructor.
“It’s great to do art,” he said. Hurley painted some dials inside the Lil ‘Pirsch model “so the children can pretend to drive”.
Such a tactic was targeted.
After the trucks complete their runs in October, they will be auctioned off with the incumbent historical company, Williams said.
Dolly McCarthy of Stroll Park Ridge magazine collaborated with the historical society, contacting local sponsors. Each truck costs $ 1,200.
“We asked the sponsors for $ 2,500 each, with the proceeds going to the historic company,” Williams said.