‘Tartan Art’ Exhibit Brings Ryder Cup to Your Street

Article updated: 5/13/2012 9:09 AM

‘Tartan Art’ exhibit brings Ryder Cup to your street

By Elisabeth Mistretta

Medinah Country Club may be tucked away in a tiny, unincorporated area of DuPage County, but when it comes to hosting prestigious golf tournaments, it always has been big time.

Including its first U.S. Open in 1949, Medinah has hosted five national major tournaments, most recently the 2006 PGA Championship.

And now the eyes of the entire golfing world will be looking to Medinah when one of golf’s most esteemed events, the 39th Ryder Cup, arrives this fall.

For the first time in its 85-year history, the biannual tournament will come to Medinah, featuring the best golfers from the U.S. and Europe and drawing roughly 40,000 fans each day from Sept. 25 through 30. It’s a coup for the golf course and the surrounding business community. But thanks to a planned outdoor public art exhibit, it also will be a boon to two area charities.

Because while much of the attention will be focused on the fairways and greens of Medinah, thousands of others in the region — golf fans or not — will notice the Ryder Cup celebration rolling onto their own streets.

Quite literally.

About 50 giant golf balls — all uniquely decorated by professional artists and sponsored by area businesses — will herald the arrival of the Ryder Cup starting Sept. 13 as part of an exhibit called “Tartan Art on the Avenue.”

The event, named for the plaid, tartan pattern worn by the game’s Scottish founders, will remain on display through Oct. 10 and raise money for two charities: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana and the Illinois PGA Foundation.

“This is a very prestigious thing,” said Eric Schmidt, executive director of Magnificent Moments, the campaign shepherding “Tartan Art.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not only to show off our great golf course, but the whole area,” he said. “There should be a whole sense of Chicagoland pride, and we should be the cheerleading team.”

Organizers said the exhibit is similar to the decorated cow sculptures that popped up 13 years ago at prominent Chicago sites — or even like the giraffes, pandas and other creatures in cities like Naperville that followed suit.

But “Tartan Art” will be the first such display aimed at the whole Chicago region. Yes, the 5-foot-tall golf balls are slated to be teed up at sites like Chicago’s Magnificent Mile along Michigan Avenue. But they’ll also be at locales such as Medinah and Olympia Fields country clubs, giving the exhibit greater suburban accessibility.

Famed sports artist LeRoy Neiman already has painted the exhibit’s marquee piece.

Golf star Luke Donald will work with an art student at his alma mater, Northwestern University in Evanston, to create another. And children involved with Ronald McDonald House Charities, one of the “Tartan Art” beneficiaries, will paint a third for the charity’s newest house in Chicago.

Officials said 12 more golf balls are already spoken for and will be designed by artists from organizations such as Columbia College Chicago, the Chicago Artists’ Coalition and the South Shore Arts. But they predict a total of at least 50 area companies will step up to sponsor pieces, with packages ranging from $7,000 to $20,000, depending on sponsorship perks. Local artists or guilds, which receive a $500 stipend and publicity, are also still welcome to submit sketches.

Ronald McDonald House Charities CEO Doug Porter said he hopes the exhibit will connect people in the region, with the golf balls serving as conversation pieces, photo opportunities and tourist attractions, as well as a fundraising device for his organization and the Illinois PGA Foundation.

“It’s civic pride on the platform of the Ryder Cup, but expressed through art,” Porter said, adding the Ryder Cup itself is also about pride. “Unlike the normal PGA Tour, there is no prize money. They don’t get paid a cent. You’re really playing for national pride and the love of sport, which makes it unique and very special.”

Proceeds will benefit each of the Ronald McDonald House sites, which include four houses that allow families to stay together while a child is having hospital treatment. The group is building its newest Ronald McDonald House at 211 E. Grand in Chicago, which will feature 86 rooms in a 15-story building that opens June 26. The house also includes nine rooms in Lurie Children’s Hospital for families with the most critically ill children.

The charity this spring also opened two rooms at Edward Hospital in Naperville that serve families of children with illnesses such as cancer or who are undergoing major surgery.

PGA of America, which sponsors the Ryder Cup, also chose the Illinois PGA Foundation as a “Tartan Art” beneficiary. The organization promotes the goodwill and growth of golf with an emphasis on activities that benefit youth who might not have access to the sport.

“Tartan Art” isn’t the only way the groups will raise funds in conjunction with the Ryder Cup. The art exhibit is part of a larger fundraising campaign called Magnificent Moments. The campaign that launched last September with a charity golf shot event with the Ryder Cup captains, continues with “Tartan Art” and concludes with “Bagpipes and Blues,” a gala event on Sept. 27 at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

The event will feature Chicago Blues music and Scottish bagpipes, guests donning Tartan outfits, wine that pays tribute to the golfers from Europe and the United States, and auction of Ryder Cup and Chicago memorabilia, outings and more.

Schmidt said these events allow everyone in the Chicago region to get involved, even if they didn’t win the lottery to buy pricey Ryder Cup tickets. Or, he said, even if they don’t like golf and just love art.

“We are trying to break new ground for the Ryder Cup, which is very exclusive,” Schmidt said. “So we wanted to find an inclusive way for all of Chicagoland to participate.”

Copyright © 2012 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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