Statue Stories Chicago

July 29, 2015

Chicago’s Public Statues Brought to Life Through Innovative Use of Mobile Technology

30 iconic statues speak their minds as part of Statue Stories Chicago project

CHICAGO – August 6, 2015 –Statue Stories Chicago, a new innovation in public art is launching in the city that brought America the famous Cows on Parade. This new city wide arts project, gives voice to Chicago’s most important statues and sculptures. The project enables statues to speak their mind from August 6th, 2015 through the summer of 2016, offering listeners experiences from the historical to comical,– as narrated by a collection of celebrity personalities.

Statue Stories Chicago calls upon people to look at Chicago’s public artworks with new eyes and ears,” said Jessica Taylor, VP of Experience Design at Antenna Lab – which served as a technical supplier on the project. “Each statue has a unique story to tell, including Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Park, the lions guarding the Art Institute of Chicago, the eloquent Paul Laurence Dunbar, and the giant Picasso.”

To hear the statues speak, visitors have three simple options to launch a “call back” on their smartphone from the statue, using three kinds of technology: NFC, QR codes or a short mobile URL. There is no need to download anything.

“The idea was to create a spontaneous experience, where people could discover Statue Stories for themselves. We intentionally steered away from creating an app that people would have to download in advance, and instead we opted for low-cost technologies such as NFC and QR codes,” Taylor said. “We think this preserves the spontaneity of each experience and ensures that the content is available to a much broader audience.”

Spearheaded by the non-profit art production company, Sing London, the Statues Stories Chicago project replicates a similar effort, Talking Statues London, that the organization launched last year throughout London and Manchester in the UK. Sing London has now developed monologues for a variety of actors, comedians, journalists, opera singers, playwrights, and producers to voice the statues in Chicago, including: Carol Burnett, Steve Carell, Renee Fleming, Ike Holter, Bill Kurtis, Tina Landau, Elizabeth McGovern, Bob Newhart, John C. Reilly, David Schwimmer, among many others.

The team from Antennal Lab devised standards and implemented the technology used in the project in collaboration with Sing London and the City of Chicago. The company relied on its previous experience with the Talking Statues London project to streamline the technical implementation effort and replicate the high-caliber experience for a Chicago audience.

“It’s not high cost technology,” Taylor added. “It’s just very well executed and can be replicated elsewhere.”

The city-wide project is funded by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and is delivered with in-kind support from cultural partners including: the Art Institute of Chicago, The Chicago Park District, The Chicago Public Library, The Chicago Tribune, Choose Chicago, The Cultural Mile, The Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, The Field Museum, The Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, The Millennium Park Foundation, The Shedd Aquarium, Steppenwolf Theatre and The Second City. Status Stories Chicago was powered by Antenna Lab, cultural technologists and leading producers of museum guides – while support with casting and recording came from Audible.com.

In conjunction with the project, The Goodman Theatre is overseeing a public writing competition where three winning scripts will give the gift of speech to a trio of statues; (1) a maiden behind the Art Institute of Chicago, (2) a cow who’s lost its herd, and (3) a Brachiosaurus by The Field Museum. The winning entries will be recorded by prestigious theatre members and will speak in time for Easter 2016. For more information, visit www.statuestorieschicago.com.

Some Statues at a Glance:

  • Elizabeth McGovern swaps the splendour of Downton Abbey to go further back in time as the Greek Goddess Hebe, who stands upon the Rosenberg Fountain
  • By the Shedd Aquarium Steve Carell gives voice to the statue of Man with Fish, scaling back on the fish jokes .
  • Shonda Rhimes voices Miró’s Chicago, telling us what it’s like to have a giant fork sticking out of your head
  • Bob Newhart creates and voices a monologue for a statue of…Bob Newhart! He is perhaps the first person to give voice to his own statue
  • Does the passing public pout or preen? David Schwimmer takes on the role of Cloud Gate,revealing what the Bean has actually seen
  • Renee Fleming captures The Spirit of Music, revealing how a city of hog butchers learned to love classical music and opera
  • John C. Reilly animates Scott Turow’s monologue for Standing Lincoln
  • Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory swaps physics for astronomy, giving voice to the great Copernicus
  • Bill Kurtis animates Montgomery Ward, the entrepreneur who battled the city to preserve Chicago’s lakefront
  • In Lincoln Park, Jack McBrayer plays up the lighter side of a young Will Shakespeare
  • Malcolm London pays tribute to the African American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar in a literary mash up that crosses generations
  • Bob Balaban gives resonance to Haym Salomon, the patriotic Jewish financier and principal funder of the American Revolution
  • Is it a bird? Is it a crane? Or a horse with no name? Carol Burnett explores the inner voice of the mysterious being that is Chicago’s Picasso
  • Luis Valdez is the inner voice of Benito Juarez, Mexico’s famous leader who feels his name has been taken in vain.
  • Oz Park is in Chicago, not Kansas but to Dorothy, it feels like home. Lookingglass Theatre breathes new life into L. Frank Baum’s famous characters.

About Antenna Lab

Antenna Lab, part of Antenna International, is a collection of leading cultural technologists and creators of immersive multimedia museum experiences. The organization serves as a hub for exchanging ideas and trend spotting in the cultural sector. Drawing on original research and embracing rapid prototyping, digital innovation and emerging platforms, the Lab delivers consultancy and training products as well as showcasing leading-edge projects and the latest digital innovations. www.antennalab.org | www.antennainternational.com

About Sing London

Sing London is a non-profit UK based arts organisation whose projects aspire to lift the public’s spirit. Sing London’s work strives to connect people to the public spaces we all share. Past projects include London’s Street Pianos Project, and Ping!, which saw 1,000 ping pong tables installed in public spaces across England. Most recently they produced Talking Statues London. For more information visit www.singlondon.org

About The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation seeks to improve Chicago’s built environment, to enhance the city through the arts, to use investigative reporting to strengthen democracy, and to ameliorate the effects of low wages on the working poor. For more information visit www.driehausfoundation.org.

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