This colorful, Venetian glass mosaic was inspired by the regenerative power of the lily as a symbol for the Uptown community. Lead artist Patricia M. Murphy worked with a group of assistant artists and several dozen local teenagers to create the tile panels. Murphy was the founder and co-director of Beacon Street Gallery and Theatre, a non-profit arts organization. The gallery and theater, which closed in late 2011, provided programming to Chicago’s underserved population. Additional support for the mosaic was provided by the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Art Group, Mayor Daley’s YouthNet, Gallery 37, MacArthur Foundation, and Lakeview High School.
Comprising ten mosaic panels, Lily, Birth-Rebirth adorns the west facade of the field house. The building’s four pilasters feature vertical compositions depicting different varieties of lilies. Orange, yellow, white, and red blossoms stretch upward in full bloom, their petals opening against mottled backgrounds. Small borders of tan and brown tiles surround the vertical panels, creating a harmonious transition between the mosaics and the variegated brown hues of the brick field house.
Five horizontal panels line the spaces underneath the windows. These compositions depict abstract motifs of treetops and shrubbery set against cloudy blue skies. The alternating horizontal and vertical panels enhance the height of the lilies, which seem to sprout out of and soar above the landscape. At the far right, the final horizontal panel portrays three white calla lilies.
The lily serves as a metaphor for community efforts to improve the Uptown neighborhood. A poem by Susan F. Field expands on this theme of the lily as a symbol of rebirth and rejuvenation. Field titled her work “Positive Thoughts.” The verse is inscribed on an interpretive panel next to the mosaics: “Positive Thoughts are Sent / I am sending / you a present / to strengthen / your soul today. / A garden / of wildflowers, / colorful / vibrant / indefatigable / perennial. / Please, / receive me.” Often given in times of sorrow or loss, perennial lilies represent hope for new life in the future.