Park Ridge’s public art display this summer is delighting kids and kids at heart, with painted fire truck sculptures scattered in prominent locations around town.
The 10 colorfully decorated fiberglass model trucks, big enough for youngsters to climb inside, are on display until October 7 and showcase the talents of local artists.
“They’re so popular,” Brian Lazzaro, vice president of the Park Ridge Historical Society said of the Fire Trucks on Parade exhibit. “A lot of kids are on top of them and around them.”
Members of the Park Ridge Historical Society led an effort to reclaim a vintage 1934 fire truck, nicknamed the “Lil’ Pirsch,” and that led to artistic facsimiles of the vehicle all over town.
The historical society acquired Lil’Pirsch from the Memphis Fire Department two years ago, displaying the vintage fire truck in this year’s Memorial Day parade. So, when the creative idea for the sculptures displayed in key places around the city was born, a fire truck came first to the minds of historians.
“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.
Williams and Lazzaro’s search was not long. They found Cowpainters LLC, a company in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood whose website advertises about 350 fiberglass model animals and objects. The cow painters had a mold for a fire truck, Williams said, and the project was off the ground.
A red replica representing Lil’Pirsch was placed outside the Triple Scoop’d Ice Cream Shop on Devon Avenue with artist Kathy Hurley, longtime art teacher at Franklin School. Hurley also teamed up with husband Peadar Hurley and friend Mary Ann Tunnell to paint royal blue and tape woodwork — Peadar Hurley’s specialty — to the truck outside Starbucks to honor Park Ridge artists. One of the artists commemorated was Grant Wood of “American Gothic” fame.
Other truck locations 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 station (Randel), Hodges Park (Mark Zimmerman), Public Library (Alayna McKim) and Centennial Park (Michelle Krause).
Along with Lil’Pirsch’s classic red color, the trucks all had descriptions of the history at their locations painted with links to the historical society’s website. Artists were given wide latitude with their depictions.
“I just said put the story on the trucks and they went 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 people who attended,” Lazzaro said.
Pinkerton, just 18 and a lifelong Park Ridge resident, had a simple depiction of Pickwick on her truck. She painted film strips on her body.
“It was fun and cool, and a good opportunity,” she said. “I am honored. It was a challenge. I used acrylic paint.”
Pinkerton is not yet pursuing art as a career. A Loyola Academy student, she is enrolled to study biomedical engineering at the University of Miami. But she had experience painting moon signs and stars at the TeaLula Teahouse.
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 doer and instructor.
“It’s good to make art,” she said. Hurley painted some numbers inside Lil’Pirsch’s model “so kids can pretend they’re driving the car.”
Such a tactic was targeted.
After the trucks complete their run in October, they will be auctioned off with the benefiting historical society, Williams said.
Dolly McCarthy of Stroll Park Ridge magazine collaborated with the historical society, contacting local sponsors. Each truck cost $1,200.
“We asked the sponsors for $2,500 each, with the proceeds going to the historical society,” Williams said.