Park Ridge’s public art exhibit this summer delights kids and kids at heart with painted fire truck sculptures prominently dotted around town.
The 10 colorfully decorated fiberglass trucks, big enough for youngsters to climb inside, are on display through Oct. 7 and showcase the talents of local artists.
“They’re so popular,” Brian Lazaro, vice president of the Park Ridge Historical Society, said of the Fire Trucks on Parade exhibit. “So many kids are on them and around them.”
Members of the Park Ridge Historical Society have taken on an effort to reclaim a vintage 1934 fire truck called the “Lil’ Pirsch,” and it’s resulted in artistic facsimiles of the vehicle all over town.
The historical society received Lil’ Pirsch from the Memphis Fire Department two years ago, displaying a vintage fire engine in this year’s Memorial Day Parade. So when the creative idea for sculptures displayed at key locations around the city arose, the fire engine came first in the minds of historians.
“When we first bought Lil’ Pirsch, we thought, wouldn’t it be great to put fire trucks around town, like cows?” recalled Cheryl Williams, president of the historical society.
The search for Williams and Lazaro didn’t last 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 was launched.
A red replica representing Lil’ Pirsch was placed outside the Triple Scoop’d ice cream shop on Devon Avenue with longtime Franklin School art teacher Cathy Hurley the artist. Hurley also teamed up with her husband, Peadar Hurley, and friend Mary Ann Tunnell to paint royal blue and attach woodwork — Peadar Hurley’s specialty — to the truck outside Starbucks to honor Park Ridge artists. One of the featured artists was Grant Wood of “American Gothic” fame.
Other truck and artist locations include Historic Downtown Park Ridge (Aidan Gentile), Pickwick Theater (Abby Pinkerton), Trader Joe’s Parking Lot (Miranda Randell), Church of St. Paul of the Cross (Jill Pinsky), Metro Station (Randell), Hodges Park (Mark Zimmerman), Public Library (Alayna McKim) and Centennial Park (Michelle Krause).
Along with Lil’ Pirsch’s classic red livery, all the trucks had images of the history of their locations painted with links to the historical society’s website. Artists were given wide latitude with their images.
“I just said put the story on the trucks and they took off with it,” Williams said.
Triple Scoop’d didn’t have a specific historical angle. “But they helped us with the Santa party on Christmas Day and served hot chocolate to the attendees,” Lazaro said.
Pinkerton, just 18 years old and a lifelong Park Ridge resident, had a simple image of Pickwick on his truck. She paints filmstrips on the body.
“It was fun and great and a good opportunity,” she said. “It’s an honor. It was a challenge. I used acrylic paint.
Pinkerton has not yet pursued art as a career. A graduate of Loyola Academy, she enrolled to study biomedical engineering at the University of Miami. But she had experience painting the moon signs and stars at the TeaLula tea shop.
For Hurley, a 32-year-old art teacher at Franklin School, the two trucks were an opportunity to show her students that she is both a performer and an instructor.
“It’s great to actually do art,” she said. Hurley painted some dials in the pattern of Lil’ Pirsch “so the kids can pretend they’re driving.”
Such tactics were targeted.
After the trucks complete their run in October, they will be auctioned off with the historical society as the beneficiary, Williams said.
Dolly McCarthy of Stroll Park Ridge Magazine partnered with the historical society, connecting with local sponsors. Each truck cost $1,200.
“We asked the sponsors for $2,500 each, with the proceeds going to the historical society,” Williams said.