Edgeville Buzz

Local Artist John Kearney Dies But Leaves a Sculptural Legacy

John KearneyHe was a man that many people adored even though they had never met him. His sculptures lit up neighborhoods and made people smile. Now his beautiful talent has been taken away from future creations but will live on in the many sculptural pieces that dot Chicagoland and beyond.

Sadly, one month ago today on August 10, 2014, Mr. Kearney passed away of a heart attack at his residence in the Admiral building at Sheridan and Foster. He was 89-years-old.

His artwork mainly consisted of welded metal sculptures of animals, many of them recycled from old car bumpers. His skills are said to have been developed during World War II as a U.S. Navy sailor while performing underwater repair of naval vessels. That job helped to grow his passion for art as he took his creativity to the next level.

His art caught on through the years as his reputation grew solid. He caught the eye of many celebrities such as Studs Terkel, Brigitte Bardot, Johnny Carson, Norman Mailer and Kirk Douglas. They collected his art feverishly and that is when museums started to take notice as well.

GoudyCubsMost importantly, Chicago became his playground of art. We have seen the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scare Crow and Dorothy and Toto in Oz Park. And we sadly miss the giraffes that welcomed people on Elaine Place in Lakeveiw. But we can still see his work right here in Edgewater/Uptown at Goudy School. One of his most masterful pieces is of a cougar perched over the school’s playground. It forever keeps a vigilante eye on its precious cubs while they sit as bronze sculptures along side the children playing at the park.

Mr. Kearney also co-founded with his wife Lynn in 1949, the Contemporary Art Workshop in Chicago. This highly respected center for the arts included a bronze foundry and gallery space where artists could affordably create and show their works.

Mr. Kearney will be greatly missed, but all we need to do is stroll along our neighborhoods and we too can smile at the inspiring sculptures of this great artist.

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