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Richard Hunt: Inspiring us all to take flight

World-renowned sculptor and artist Richard Hunt was born and raised in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

A man with a light medium toned and a mix of white and grey hair, works on a wooden piece of art. His face is covered by a plastic face mask.

Richard’s passion for the arts stemmed from his childhood, during which he spent the majority of his time enjoying museums and opera performances. Going on to lead an impressive career with over 150 large-scale installations around the world, we’re thrilled to announce that Richard Hunt will add another piece to his portfolio: a sculpture for the Obama Presidential Center.

Hunt’s sculpture, ‘Book Bird,’ will be placed in the Library Reading Garden outside of the new Chicago Public Library branch on the Obama Presidential Center campus. ‘Book Bird’ will depict a bird taking flight from a book to illuminate how reading and learning allows readers to enter new places and fly free.

A miniature model of Richard Hunt's "Book Bird," made of bronze.

If you’re feeling inspired to see more of Richard Hunt’s sculptures, the map below features a selection of works that can be found across Chicago. Happy “Hunt”ing! 😉

A map depicting the city of Chicago with select Richard Hunt sculptures labeled.
An abstract sculpture set in the middle of a park with a blazing blue sky behind it.

1. "Light of Truth" Located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, Light of Truth is a tribute to activist and journalist Ida B. Wells. Not far from where Wells lived for most of her life, the abstract form stands on three columns with a torch-like figure placed above levitating steps. A plaque on the sculpture features a quote from Wells reading: “What is or should be a woman? …A strong, bright presence, thoroughly imbued with a sense of her mission on earth and a desire to fill it.”

A two-piece, abstract sculpture shown in a massive lobby that features a skylight casting shadows upon its shape.

2. "Jacob’s Ladder" You can find Jacob’s Ladder inside the Carter Woodson Library on the South Side of Chicago. Comprised of two pieces of welded bronze and brass, Jacob’s Ladder sits at an impressive height overlooking the library’s foyer. The idea for the sculpture originated from the well-known African American spiritual called “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.”

An abstract sculpture installed in a recessed area within a courtyard. In the background, a large building can be seen.

3. "Slabs of the Sunburnt West" Inspired by Illinoisan Carl Sandburg’s poem of the same name, Slabs of the Sunburnt West is a massive bronze ground plate located on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus. The 30×30 foot sculpture was commissioned to honor Sandburg. It is made up of a bronze ground plate with five protruding slabs.

Richard Hunt's "Farmer's Dream" abstract sculpture shown in brownish bronze.

4. "Farmer’s Dream" Farmer’s Dream is made of welded cortex steel and weighs in around 800 pounds. You can find the sculpture at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art now, but the impressive piece of art once visited the White House during President Clinton’s administration. The bold sculpture was inspired by Hunt’s father and grandfather’s lives as sharecroppers in Georgia.

Richard Hunt's "Eagle Columns" abstract sculptures.

5. "Eagle Columns" If you haven’t visited Chicago’s Jonquil Park—located in Lincoln Park—Hunt’s Eagle Columns is a great reason to make a special visit. The contemporary monument depicts two abstract eagles rising from the bronze pylons beneath them, and memorializes politician John Peter Altgeld and poet Vachel Lindsay, two people who played a prominent role in Illinois history.

A steel, flame-like sculpture sits atop a stone base.

6. "Freeform" Stainless steel Freeform is mounted on the exterior facade of the State of Illinois Building. At a glance the statue may appear small, but it stretches over two-and-a-half stories and weighs over three tons. The curved lines embody an active flame, free of restricted or stiff lines.

Tall steel abstract structure is juxtaposed against a downtown Chicago building, with people walking by it.

7. "We Will" The next time you find yourself in downtown Chicago, look out for Hunt’s We Will. Located on the corner of Randolph and Garland Court, the stainless steel form sits at an impressive height of 35 feet. Hunt believes a work of this size should “integrate into the site in a harmonious way,” so pedestrians may easily pass, while admiring the impressive public art.

A silver abstract sculpture made of steel.

8. "Flightforms" To add a little delight to the next flight you have to catch out of Midway International Airport, be sure to keep an eye out for Flightforms. The contemporary, upward-pointing piece was installed in 2001 and suggests a defiance of gravity and wonder. The public installation reaches 30 feet high and is made out of welded stainless steel.

Upcoming – The Obama Presidential Center

Richard Hunt refers to the sculpture he is creating for the Obama Presidential Center as Book Bird. The piece will feature a book with a singing bird emerging from it, and it will be located in the Library Reading Garden beside the Center’s new branch of the Chicago Public Library. Richard hopes that people will see the piece “as something that encapsulates the progress one can make through reading and study.”

A rendering shows the Obama Presidential Center from a garden, where a person stands in front of a bronze sculpture of a bird emerging from a book.


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