Palos Heights Public Art and Lake Katherine: A Day of Art and Nature

We planned a quick outing to visit sculpture parks in three Chicago suburbs. Instead, we spent the entire day exploring public art and Lake Katherine in Palos Heights, Illinois.

In Case You’d Rather Just Listen…

In Case You’d Rather Read…

Before we left home, I printed the Public Arts Guide, created by the Palos Heights Public Arts Commission. The guide includes a map of twenty-two art installations throughout the city. We knew then that we’d spend a little more time in the city, perhaps all morning, we thought. It would be kind of a scavenger hunt.

Exploring Public Art in Palos Heights

We started at the Art Garden, located behind the fire station. There we found a half dozen or so sculptures. They ranged from a big Wire Hand to a bronze sculpture of Butterfly Girl.

Nearby we found more art, including a flame sculpture in front of the firehouse.

The Flame sculpture in front of a building surrounded by short shrubs.

A half block away, on a building adjacent to the municipal parking lot, we found an awesome mural called “The Treasures of Palos Heights.” The artist was Anne Farley Gaines, but the project was a cooperative among several community organizations, including the Palos Heights schools.

We found this art installation intriguing. From a distance, it looks like a mural painted on the wall. When you get up close, though, you can see that it’s part mosaic and has great dimensional detail.

We hunted down several more sculptures around town, including…

…the trio of totems at the Metra train station…

Three tall vertical sculptures with decorative grasses around them and woods in the back

…a jack at Community Park…

A large jack-shaped sculpture

…and my favorite, Paige Turner, a young lady sitting on a bench reading a book outside the Palos Heights Public Library.

Sculpture of a young lady sitting cross-legged on a bench reading a book.

Exploring Art and Nature at Lake Katherine

I read recently about Lake Katherine, a small body of water near the Cal-Sag Canal. Before that I had never heard of it. Neither did Skip. And we both grew up in towns nearby. It turns out Lake Katherine was developed in 2005 as a nature center and botanic garden. It’s a real hidden gem! I know that sounds cliché, but it truly is a gem and it really is hidden. From the street, you see only condos, houses, and businesses…and a small drive with the Lake Katherine sign.

A walking path around the lake, with plenty of seating here and there, is a great way to explore nature. As we walked, we saw blue heron, goldfinches, even families of ducks and swans.

The beautiful waterfalls really caught our attention. What is it about the sound and sight of a rushing waterfall that is so refreshing?

Waterfall with large stones around it and a little girl at the side of it

A restored prairie area reminds us of what millions of Midwest acres looked like before western settlers arrived. The flower garden in full bloom was gorgeous, and we couldn’t help rubbing the leaves to check the scents of the herbs in the herb garden.

Children’s Forest and Fairy Garden

One special garden is the Fairy Garden in the Children’s Forest. The entrance, through an archway that was once part of a Palos Heights school, leads to the trail through the forest. Along the trail, a story about fairies enfolds page by page. Finally, you come to a couple of adorable fairy homes. Nearby, stools shaped like toadstools and a giant wishbone beckon you to sit and rest awhile.

Indoor Nature Center

Another thing kids would enjoy is the indoor nature center. Here, aquariums hold snakes, turtles, and a few fish. And there is plenty of room inside for the nature classes held for kids.

A fish in an aquarium

Art and Nature Go Hand-in-Hand

We did see some of the sculptures we were searching for at Lake Katherine, but mostly we were distracted by nature. We look at it, though, as nature is God’s art, and what can be more beautiful than that?

If you explore public art and/or Lake Katherine in Palos Heights…

Even though we spent several hours exploring public art and Lake Katherine in Palos Heights, we only made it to about half the art locations.

The good news is, it’s a short driving distance between each of the various art installations, so you aren’t spending more time driving than visiting. Using the map on the guide from the Public Arts Commission, you can plan ahead a route that makes the most sense. Palos Heights is in Chicago Southland, less than an hour southwest of downtown Chicago. Visit the Lake Katherine website for visitor information.

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