Park Ridge’s public art exhibit this summer delights kids and kids at heart, with painted fire truck sculptures dotted in prominent locations throughout the city.
The 10 colorfully decorated fiberglass model trucks, big enough for youngsters to climb in, are on display through October 7 and showcase the talents of local artists.
“They’re so popular,” said Brian Lazzaro, Park Ridge Historical Society vice president of the “Fire Trucks on Parade” exhibit. “So many kids are on them and around them.”
Members of the Park Ridge Historical Society led an effort to reacquire a vintage 1934 fire truck, nicknamed “Lil’ Pirsch,” and that led to artistic facsimiles of the vehicle around town.
The historical society acquired the 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 of sculptures displayed at key points of the city came up, 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.
The search for Williams and Lazzaro did not take long. They found Cowpainters LLC, a company in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood whose website advertises about 350 animal models and fiberglass objects. The Cowpainters had a mold for a fire truck, Williams said, and the project had begun.
A red replica representing Lil’ Pirsch was placed outside the Triple Scoop’d Ice Cream Shop on Devon Avenue by artist Kathy Hurley, longtime art teacher at Franklin School. Hurley also teamed up with her husband Peadar Hurley and friend Mary Ann Tunnell to paint royal blue and glue woodwork — Peadar Hurley’s specialty — to the truck outside Starbucks to honor Park Ridge artists. One of the artists honored was Grant Wood of “American Gothic” fame.
Other truck locations and artists include Park Ridge History Center (Aiden Gentile), Pickwick Theater (Abby Pinkerton), Trader Joe’s parking lot (Miranda Randel), St. Paul of the Cross (Jill Pinsky), the Metra Station (Randel), Hodges Park (Mark Zimmerman), the Public Library (Alayna McKim), and Centennial Park (Michelle Krause).
Along with Lil’ Pirsch’s classic red livery, the trucks all had illustrations 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 in the trucks and they took off with it,” Williams said.
Triple Scoop’d didn’t have a specific story angle. “But they helped us with the Santa event at Christmas and served hot chocolate to the attendees,” Lazzaro said.
Pinkerton, just 18 and a Park Ridge resident, had a simple depiction of Pickwick in her truck. He painted films on the body.
“It was fun and cool, and a nice opportunity,” he said. “With honor. It was a challenge. I used acrylic paint.”
Pinkerton is not yet pursuing art as a career. A graduate of Loyola Academy, he is enrolled to study biomedical engineering at the University of Miami. But he had experience painting the monthly signs and stars at the TeaLula tea shop.
For Hurley, a 32-year-old art teacher at Franklin School, the two trucks were a chance to show her students that she was a hands-on and an educator.
“It’s great to actually make art,” she said. Hurley painted some dials inside Lil’ Pirsch’s model “so kids can pretend they’re driving.”
Such a tactic was on target.
After the trucks complete their runs in October, they will be auctioned off with the historical society as beneficiary, Williams said.
Dolly McCarthy of Stroll Park Ridge magazine worked with the historical society, contacting local sponsors. Each truck cost $1,200.
“We asked donors for $2,500 each, with the proceeds going to the historical society,” Williams said.