Lincoln Park: Charitas
In 2016, the Chicago Park District re-installed Charitas near its original location in Lincoln Park, after the historic sculpture had remained in storage for many years. Depicting a figure of a woman holding two children, the bronze sculptural groups is one of the city’s few twentieth century public monuments produced by a female artist.
The Chicago Daily News sponsored a competition for this artwork in 1922. The contest, open only to students and alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, sought to create an artistic outdoor fountain for the Daily News Fund Sanitarium for Sick Babies. The Lincoln Park facility (now Theater on the Lake) served as a day nursery to treat children with tuberculosis while also providing wholesome meals, fresh milk, and health care to undernourished children throughout the city. Businessman Charles H. Wacker, architect Irving K. Pond, and artist Lorado Taft served on the contest jury. The awarded Ida McClelland Stout the first prize of $1000, as well as the $1000 construction budget for the project.
Born of Scottish and English heritage in Decatur, Illinois, Ida McClelland Stout (1881- 1927) was the daughter of a tinsmith. After working briefly as secretary in Chicago and then moving to Germany for two years to learn bookmaking, Stout returned to study under renowned artist Albin Polasek at the School of the Art Institute. Stout’s work was well received. She won many awards including the John Quincy Adams Scholarship, the Chicago Woman’s Aid Award, and John C. Shaffer Prize. In 1926, she travelled to Rome, where she worked briefly prior to her sudden death the following year.
Stout’s winning design forCharitas featured a bronze figurative woman holding a young child on her shoulder and a sleeping baby in the crook of her other arm. Displayed on a base with simple Art Deco style ornamentation, the sculpture stood at the edge of a 30-feet wide circular reflecting basin that also served as a wading pool. The Chicago Daily News reported that the artwork represented Stout’s “conception of the idea and ideal of The Daily News Fresh-Air Sanitarium.”
Charitas remained in its original location just west of the Daily News Sanitarium until 1939, when it was put in storage. At that time, amajor reconstruction of Lake Shore Drive caused the sculpture’s removal along with the demolition of the basin and entire front of the building. In 1953, the Chicago Park District converted the old Sanitarium building into Theatre on the Lake, a summer venue in which that drama clubs and organizations from parks throughout the city could stage productions. The Theater on the Lake became a professional summer theater in 1996, showcasing the productions of many of the city’s most talented theater companies.
In the 1950s Charitas was taken out of storage and displayed in the Lincoln Park Conservatory in the Show House. About twenty years later, the sculpture was installed in the Garfield Park Conservatory. At that time, Park District tradesmen painted the monument white to match Pastoral and Idyl, a pair of carved marble artworks by Lorado Taft. Sculpture conservator Andrzej Dajnowski restored Charitas’s original brown patina in the late 1990s. By that time, the monument had been separated from its original base. In 2015, the Chicago Park District conserved Charitas, and planned the monument’s return to Lincoln Park. In early 2016, after the completion of a new landfill extension east of Fullerton Avenue, Charitas was reinstalled with its original base in Lincoln Park just south of the Theater on the Lake.