Located in the Near South Side Community, locally known as the South Loop, Chicago Women’s Park & Gardens totals [2.51] acres and formerly housed the Vietnam Veterans Museum and the Clarke House Museum sits adjacent to the gardens. Built in 1836 for Henry B. Clarke, it is Chicago’s oldest house.Over the years, the house survived fires, belonged to a church, and was moved twice – during the second move, the house was stuck in the air for two weeks. The house is now located in the Chicago Women’s Park in the Prairie Avenue Historic District, and operated as a museum by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The recreation building is a B-3 field house facility and features an indoor children’s playground and meeting room facilities.Outside, the park offers a passive garden. Part of the spaces available for rental for children’s birthday parties and meetings.
Park-goers can enjoy mom, tots and pop classes or play bridge or take yoga classes at the facility. In the summer youth attend the Park District’s popular six-week day camp. Specialty camps include pre-school activities.
In addition to programs, Chicago Women’s Park hosts fun special events throughout the year for the whole family, such as Parents Night Out and Concerts in the Park.
Opened to the public in 2000, Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens honors the contributions that women have made to the city throughout its history. The park provides a quite respite in the Near South Side community area. It is located within the Prairie Avenue Historic District, and nestled between two house museums— the Widow Clarke House and the Glessner House. The park’s field house includes an indoor playground, two clubrooms, a café, and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Art Museum, which operates out of the third floor of the building. In 2011, the Chicago Park District installed a relatively small, but extremely significant monument in the park in homage to Jane Addams (1860 – 1935), Chicago’s famous social reformer and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Internationally renowned artist Louise Bourgeios (1911 – 2010) created the artwork, which was first dedicated on the city’s lakefront in 1996. The sculpture was commissioned by the B.F. Ferguson Fund of the Art Institute of Chicago. Representatives of the Art Institute selected Bourgeios because they knew that the surrealist artist would portray Jane Addams through a symbolically powerful artwork rather than a depictive figurative sculpture. Bourgeios produced a series of carved granite hands that sit on rough-hewn granite bases. The monument, which is also known as “Helping Hands,” recognizes the humanity of Addams’ efforts, as well as the large number of people she helped. Speaking about her work in a 2007 PBS Documentary film entitled “From Art in the 21stCentury” Louise Bourgeois said, “A work of art does not have to be explained… If you do not have any feeling about this, I cannot explain it to you. If this doesn't’t touch you, I have failed.” The work entails six rough hewn stone bases which each support a hand or series of carved black granite hands representing a broad range of people of different ages and backgrounds. The current installation reflects the artist’s original arrangement of the sculptures and their positions. Describing the significance of the artist and her approach to this project, Michael Darling, a Chief Curator at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art explains: “Louise Bourgeois is one of the most important and influential artists of the 20thand 21stcentury, primarily because she has addressed central aspects of the human condition in her work. Channeling the issues raised during her tumultuous childhood, she has focused her work on ideas about inter-personal communication, nurturing, alienation, belonging, motherhood, sensuality, birth and death, among many other themes. This sculpture is an excellent example of how she suggests these concepts in a truly universal form—through the motif of the human hand.”