Ten fire engine sculptures are public art in Park Ridge.

Ten fire engine sculptures are public art in Park Ridge.

This summer’s Park Ridge Public Art Exhibit will delight kids and kids at heart with painted sculptures of fire engines scattered at prominent locations around town.

The 10 colorfully decorated fiberglass model trucks, big enough for youngsters to climb inside, are on view until October 7 and showcase the talents of local artists.

“They’re so popular,” said Brian Lazzaro, vice president of the Park Ridge Historical Society, of the Fire Trucks on Parade exhibit. “So many kids are on them and around them.”

Members of the Park Ridge Historical Society sought to reacquire a 1934 vintage fire engine nicknamed “Lil’ Pirsch,” resulting in artistic facsimiles of the vehicle around town.

The history society acquired Lil’ Pirsch from the Memphis Fire Department two years ago and displayed the vintage fire truck in this year’s Memorial Day parade. When the creative idea for sculptures to be displayed at key locations around the city came up, historians first thought of a fire truck.

“When we first bought Lil’ Stalk, we thought, wouldn’t it be cool to send fire trucks around town like cows?” recalled Cheryl Williams, president of the historical society.

Williams and Lazzaro’s search didn’t last long. They found Cowpainters LLC, a Ravenswood company whose website advertises about 350 fiberglass models of animals and objects. Cowpainters had a mold for a fire truck, Williams said, and the project was on its way.

A red replica depicting Lil’ Stalk was placed outside the Triple Scoop’d Ice Cream Shop on Devon Avenue with longtime Franklin School art teacher Kathy Hurley, the artist. Hurley also teamed up with husband Peadar Hurley and girlfriend Mary Ann Tunnell to paint royal blue and add woodwork – Peadar Hurley’s specialty – to the truck in front of Starbucks to honor Park Ridge’s artists. One of the artists commemorated was Grant Wood from American Gothic.

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 Church (Jill Pinsky), The Metra Station (Randel), Hodges Park (Mark Zimmerman), the Public Library (Alayna McKim) and Centennial Park (Michelle Krause).

In addition to the classic Lil’ Pirsch red paint job, all of the trucks were painted with historical depictions of their locations and provided links to the history society’s website. The artists were given a great deal of leeway in their depictions.

“All I said was put the story on the trucks and they took off with it,” Williams said.

Triple Scoop didn’t have a specific angle on the story. “But they helped us with the Santa Claus event at Christmas and served hot chocolate to the attendees,” Lazzaro said.

Pinkerton, just 18 and a lifelong resident of Park Ridge, had a simple depiction of the Pickwick on her truck. She drew strips of film on the body.

“It was fun and cool and a beautiful opportunity,” she said. “I’m honored. It was a challenge. I used acrylic paint.”

Pinkerton is not yet pursuing art as a career. A graduate of Loyola Academy, she enrolled in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Miami. But she had experience painting the month signs and the 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’s not just a teacher, but a doer.

“It’s great to actually make art,” she said. Hurley drew some dials in Lil’ Pirsch’s model “for the kids to pretend to drive.”

Such a tactic was effective.

After the trucks complete their trips in October, they will be auctioned off with the historical society as the beneficiary, Williams said.

Dolly McCarthy of Stroll Park Ridge Magazine worked with the historical society and contacted local sponsors. Each truck cost $1,200.

“We have asked the sponsors for $2,500 each, with proceeds going to the historical society,” Williams said.

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