Resident takes part in ‘MetamorFridges’
Highland Park resident Kathy Halper poses with the refrigerator she turned into a doghouse for ComEd's public art exhibit, “MetamorFridges.” The piece is located at 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, in front of the city's Water Tower landmark. | Photo courtesy Kathy Halper
Who: Kathy Halper
Art background: Painted for nearly 20 years and has focused on embroidered drawings for last two years
“MetamorFridges” public art contribution: Bark-a-Lounge
Description: Her refrigerator-turned-doghouse features her dog, Baker, and honors her late dog, Bugsy
Location: 821 N. Michigan, Ave., Chicago
Updated: September 3, 2012 12:41PM
HIGHLAND PARK — Kathy Halper recently combined her love of art and dogs into a way to promote conservation and recycling.
Placed on Michigan Avenue, in front of Chicago’s famous Water Tower landmark, an old refrigerator has been converted to a creatively designed doghouse, one of 10 repurposed refrigerators now on display in ComEd’s public art exhibit, “MetamorFridges.”
Halper’s “Bark-a-Lounge” contribution shows off her dog Baker, a papillon, while also honoring Bugsy, her beagle who passed away last spring. The palatial, two-room doghouse features Baker hiding in the kitchen and Bugsy in a royal portrait over the fireplace.
“I had a lot of fun because I started to include my dogs and others friends’ dogs,” said Halper, who spent all of June painting and redesigning the gutted refrigerator. “It became more personal.”
While Halper has long been a multitalented artist, she reiterated that the purpose of this project was to encourage people to think of ways to reuse.
From ComEd’s perspective, the initiative promotes the utility’s Fridge and Freezer Recycle Rewards program, which picks up and recycles older refrigerators and freezers for free and pays customers $35 for each working appliance.
Since 2008, ComEd has removed about 135,000 electricity-guzzling refrigerators and freezers from its northern Illinois service area.
ComEd sought out Halper to participate in its public art project, but her art has typically stayed in the realm of paintings or embroidered drawings. For the last two years, Halper’s work has been for sale through the Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago.
“I was a little surprised I was someone they would choose for this,” Halper said. “The others are sculptors who have more crafting and welding skills. Within my limited skill set, I had the idea to make it into a doghouse because I could picture how I could create that. It fit with who I am.”
ComEd provided the refrigerator — from a graveyard of discarded kitchen appliances in Addison — and a second contributor cleaned, gutted and prepared them for the artists.
With local handyman Scott Greenleaf at her side, Halper went to work. Greenleaf helped construct the roof and siding while Halper’s talent and passion took over the interior hand-painted details.
“It kind of evolved as I was doing it,” she said. “This kind of art creates a sense of community and brings people together, but this piece is kind of a departure from what I’ve been doing in my personal work.
“It’s been a lot of fun.”
The refrigerator-turned-doghouse will remain on display at 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, through mid-August.
During a recent visit to the 10-piece display, Halper walked up on a French bulldog named Leon taking a short break from a downtown walk inside her doghouse. It’s also located near a Humane Society office that boasts a dog’s drinking fountain.
“Leon sat in the house and people were stopping and taking pictures and laughing,” Halper said. “It was wonderful.”
The recent “MetamorFridges” effort has motivated Halper to take on additional projects with an increased social conscience.
“I’m more intrigued with doing art related to social issues,” she explained. “This was an incredible diversion. It’s really fun to have something so out there in the public and that is so interactive.
“My art is on Michigan Avenue,” Halper concluded. “How incredibly cool is that?”