A few nights ago we were meeting friends for dinner but got there a bit early so decided to walk to the sculpture, Conversations: Here and Now, in Raymond Park in Evanston.
Indira Freitas Johnson’s sculpture grew out of conversations with diverse members of the Evanston community who shared their stories of community as well as their hopes and wishes for its future. The sculpture itself is made up of seven unique bronze chairs, with images and text from these conversations emblazoned on every surface of the chairs and the floor of the piece too. A spiral of text swirls in the center of the floor between the chairs. The piece was commissioned by the Curley family as a memorial to their mother, Isabel Alvarez MacLean (1903-2003), who lived in Evanston, and to all the citizens of Evanston.
And what do the chairs do? They invite you to sit and they actually are quite comfortable. And the spacing of them is perfect for conversation. We brought our friends over to the sculpture after dinner and sat and talked. During the conversation we were compelled to switch seats, to try each of them out. Occasionally we would get up to read the text and observe the images on each seat. While sitting there we were joined by a French family visiting their brother living in Chicago. Then another family was walking through the park and the grandparents from Taiwan sat with us for a bit. The chairs, the space, the ambiance encouraged us all to ask questions and learn more about each other in a natural, organic way.
The piece was created by Indira Freitas Johnson, a Chicago artist, originally from India. She says about this sculpture that, “Chairs, objects that are intimately familiar to most people become vehicles of communication, bridging differences and allowing common goals and concerns to flourish.”
And it’s true. The chairs literally draw you in. You want to sit in them. It pulls all kinds of people together to have conversation, a seemingly paradoxical public/intimate living room, if you will.
We talked about how next time we should bring a thermos of coffee to share.