There’s no place like home — especially the home of L. Frank Baum, the author behind “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” who wrote the series while living in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.
The current owner of that home, affordable housing company Bickerdike Redevelopment, decided to commission an art installation from the Chicago Public Art Group to honor Baum.
“We wanted to do some kind of depiction that really represented the intersectionality between the concept of 'there’s no place like home' and the need for affordable housing in our city,” said CEO Joy Aruguete.
Now, you can follow the iconic yellow brick road to Humboldt Boulevard and Wabansia Avenue, where you’ll find Toto taking a stroll down the brightly lit road that leads to a tile mosaic created by artist Hector Duarte, who has been creating artwork all over the city for the last 50 years. With the help of two other artists, he finished the project in about three months.
Duarte says the heart centered in his yellow brick road is leading to the red and brown houses that represent the future of affordable housing.
“It’s some kind of dream for people who don’t have money to pay rent right now,” Duarte said.
The Chicago skyline in different shades of green represents the Emerald City, but it was the recently added yellow brick road that Duarte says really helped bring his piece to life.
“The intention is, OK, we can go inside to enjoy all life and magic life in Chicago,” Duarte said.
One Humboldt Park resident and fan of the series says she frequently walks this route with her young children.
“Sometimes we would look, standing from here, because this is where the old house was,” said Laura Schofield.
“We’d look across the street and be like, ‘Wow think of all the things that were going on in his head as he was looking right there.’ It’s nice to have these things in your neighborhood that give it a bit of magic, you know.”
As for Bickerdike Redevelopment, they say they’re grateful for the opportunity to change the narrative around affordable housing.
“Affordable housing is just like other buildings that contribute to the beauty and the fabric of a community.”
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.