Celebrating the Natural Beauty of Chicago's Southeast Side

May 30 - September 30, 2022
Ford Calumet Environmental Center, Big Marsh Park
11555 S. Stony Island Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60617 (312) 590-5993
Tuesday-Saturday 10 am - 4 pm
Painting exhibition by Chicago artist Tara Keating that explores post-industrial sites undergoing environmental remediation and habitat restoration efforts under the stewardship of the Chicago Park District. Included in the exhibition are sixteen paintings inspired by the landscape and the animal inhabitants of Big Marsh Park, Hegewisch Marsh, Indian Ridge Marsh, Steelworkers Park, and Marian R. Byrnes Park. Following is an online version of the complete exhibition.
Pelican Island
(60 x 40 inches comprised of two 30 x 40 inch paintings, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 2022) $1,800
As a result of habitat restoration, American White Pelicans have been gathering at Big Marsh reliably since 2016. Their presence here in April a few years ago is what brought me to Big Marsh Park for the first time. With a nine-foot wingspan, these birds are some of the largest in North America and it is an absolute joy to see them. The Willis Tower was visible to me on the day that inspired this painting and served as a reminder that I was still in the city.
Butterfly Migration
(30 x 40 inches, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 2022) Sold
While walking in the woodland savanna of Hegewisch Marsh Park in early September I was fortunate to witness a gathering of monarch butterflies on their annual migration south. The blooming goldenrod and milkweed offered a banquet of nectar, and the forest was alight in their fluttering movement.
Turtle Pond
(30 x 40 inches, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 2022) Sold
The greens of summer and dappled light suffuse this pond located in Indian Ridge Marsh Park. I always see turtles here in the warmer months and regularly see Belted Kingfishers, Great Egrets, and Great Blue Herons.
Quiet Moment
(30 x 40 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2022) Sold
Three Great Egrets rest in the shade on a hot summer’s day. This scene was found in Little Marsh at the southwest corner of Big Marsh.
THE RECLAIMED LANDSCAPE:
Celebrating the Natural Beauty of
Chicago’s Southeast Side

This painting exhibition by Chicago artist Tara Keating explores post-industrial sites undergoing environmental remediation and habitat restoration efforts under the stewardship of the Chicago Park District. Included in the exhibition are landscape paintings of Big Marsh Park, Hegewisch Marsh, Indian Ridge Marsh, Steelworkers Park, and Marian R. Byrnes Park.

Unusual for an urban landscape show, the paintings focus on pockets of nature that are flourishing in areas that were once negatively impacted by industrial operations. Now public parks, these natural sites are slowly recovering after years of clean-up, remediation, and restoration. Environmental recovery activities have increased the biodiversity of Chicago’s Southeast Side and include the planting of native trees, flowers, and grasses along with the removal of invasive species.

The marshes, prairies and woodlands included in this show provide habitats for a host of mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles and insects. As public parks, they are available to all Chicagoans to enjoy. Recognizable city landmarks and remnants of the region’s industrial past are occasionally seen in some of the paintings. Each of the views in this exhibit are meant to convey the artist’s experience of the beauty, and even majesty, found in this special corner of Chicago.
Marsh Overlook
Marsh Overlook
Resilience
Resilience
Marsh Overlook  (24 x 24 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2022) $695
This outlook is a favorite stopping place on any walk around Hegewisch Marsh Park. The trill of Red-winged Blackbirds serenade visitors to the marsh in August. The colors of summer compliment the bright blue of 130th Street and Torrence Avenue Railroad Truss Bridge that reminds us that we are in the heart of an industrial corridor.
Resilience  (24 x 24 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2022) $695
This prairie located in the Marian R. Byrnes Natural Area exemplifies recent restoration efforts. Once a slag dumping ground, Rudbeckia and Liatris now dot this landscape of native grasses. The ecosystem provides meals for hunting raptors including a resident pair of Merlins and the wetlands offer a hiding place for the reclusive American Bittern.
Prairie Moment
Prairie Moment
Ore Walls
Ore Walls
Prairie Moment  (24 x 24 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2022) $695
The mixture of marsh areas and prairies offers glowing vistas around Big Marsh. Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers are often visible hunting over these grand sweeps of restored grasslands.
Ore Walls  (24 x 24 inches, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 2022) Sold
The mammoth ore walls at Steelworkers Park rise out of the land like an ancient stone monument on the edge of Lake Michigan. This drone’s-eye-view of the 30-foot-high embankments offers us a glimpse of what they might look like to the American Kestrels that favor this park for their aerial acrobatics.
Evening Thaw
Evening Thaw
Marram Grass by the Lake
Marram Grass by the Lake
Evening Thaw  (24 x 24 inches, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 2022) Sold
An evening view looking south across the fields of Indian Ridge Marsh Park towards the Torrence Avenue bridge in January. This vertical lift bridge was originally built in the 1930s and was rebuilt 2011-2012. It spans the Calumet River and is a striking landmark in the area.
Marram Grass by the Lake  (24 x 24 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2022) $695
A native grass on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, Marram Grass (Ammophila breviligulata) helps prevent erosion. This patch is found on some small dunes just north of Park 566, where the U.S. Steel South Works facility used to stand.
Background
The Southeast Side of Chicago, originally an area of rivers and marshes, has suffered under a legacy of pollution and industrial activity in the region for over a century.  
Since 2011, The Chicago Park District and its partners have been working to reclaim multiple tracts of degraded habitat across the Southeast Side. These natural sites are slowly recovering after years of clean-up, remediation, and restoration. Successes have occurred. By 2016, one of the largest birds in North American, the American White Pelican, was stopping at Big Marsh in large numbers during spring and fall migrations. Many additional water and shore birds have returned. Bald Eagles and Red-tailed hawks can now regularly be seen soaring over this corner of the city.
The artist acknowledges that more environmental remediation and clean-up on the Southeast side still needs to be done. She hopes that the paintings in this exhibit inspire all viewers to see the current and potential natural beauty found on Chicago’s Southeast Side and encourages them to support ongoing environmental restoration efforts in the region.
Tara Keating is a painter and mixed-media artist in Chicago. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in painting and drawing from the University of San Francisco. For more information about the exhibit, or to inquire about purchasing a painting, please contact the artist directly.
Incoming!
Incoming!
Hide in Plain Sight
Hide in Plain Sight
Incoming!  (8 x8 inches Acrylic on canvas, 2022) $190
A Mute Swan making a big splash at Big Marsh in April. They are not native to the Midwest but have made it their home.
Hide in Plain Sight  (8 x8 inches Acrylic on canvas, 2022) $190
An often-elusive American Bittern was seen enjoying a marshy area on the north end of Marian R. Byrnes Park in November.

Downy At Steelworkers Park  (8 x8 inches Acrylic on canvas, 2022) $190
A male Downy Woodpecker enjoys some mullein seeds at Steelworkers Park in August.
Great Blue Heron, Great Blue Sky  (8 x8 inches Acrylic on canvas, 2022) $190
This Great Blue Heron was observed in flight against an August sky over Big Marsh.
Downy at Steelworkers Park
Downy at Steelworkers Park
Great Blue Heron, Great Blue Sky
Great Blue Heron, Great Blue Sky
Hegewisch, Early Fall
Hegewisch, Early Fall
Pelican at Big Marsh
Pelican at Big Marsh
Hegewisch, Early Fall  (8 x8 inches Acrylic on canvas, 2022) Sold
A color study used to help develop the palette of the larger painting Butterfly Migration included in this exhibition.
Pelican at Big Marsh (8 x8 inches Acrylic on canvas, 2022) $190
The plate on the beak of this American White Pelican will fall off after breeding season.


Swoopy Berms
(24 x 24 inches, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 2022), Private Collection
A bird’s-eye view of the pump track at Big Marsh. Berms are the embankments on pump tracks that allow the cyclist to build speed and momentum.
This painting was created to honor some of the people that have worked to transform Big Marsh into an eco-recreation destination and who continue to strive to make it the best bike park in the Midwest. Swoopy Berms was raffled on August 6, 2022 as a fundraiser for the 501c3 non-profit organization Friends of Big Marsh.
Please contact the artist directly if you are interested in purchasing a painting from this exhibition:
Submit
Thank you!
Additional background reading for THE RECLAIMED LANDSCAPE: Celebrating the Natural Beauty of Chicago's Southeast Side
Brownfield Redevelopment: A Hidden Opportunity for Conservation Biology - https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/gtr/gtr_nc265/gtr_nc265_021.pdf
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