Grantee Project: Pollinator Solar Columns

Artists: Emily Moorhead-Wallace + J. Taylor Wallace
Neighborhood: Back of the Yards
Art Type: Sculpture
Grant Amount: $44,750

Emily Moorhead-Wallace and J Taylor Wallace

The Pollinator Solar Columns project is a community sourced public artwork that functions as a habitat and resource for insects and animals. The artists’ inspiration for this project is driven by the need to support their garden pollinators and those of their neighbors. They believe everyone has a right to clean green spaces which pollinators help create. Pollinator education can positively impact all members of our community.

The sculptures consists of three Corten steel columns that encapsulate pollinator nesting cavities. The artwork’s interior pollinator nests consist of gathered and dried garden waste from community partner green spaces. The artwork’s pollinator nests will also be made from sections of recycled J Taylor’s Chicago Tree Project “Aspire”. With help from the Department of Forestry, we recycled this material from the condemned artwork which had lost its stability after six years on exhibit in McGuane Park.

The artworks’ base structures reference cultural columns like totems, city center pillars, and decorative building posts. These types of constructions have served as historic record keepers, wayfinding devices, and time-keepers.

Community members will help to create nesting material, build the pollinator cavities, and design the carvings to be made into the steel. Residents will also be encouraged to build pollinator habitats at home.

The artwork will be installed in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, at the base of the historic industrial Union Stock Yards. Today this area continues to see heavy manufacturing and transportation use. With a lack of green space and surrounded by urban express routes like Ashland and Western Avenue, Pershing Road, and Garfield Boulevard, this community lies within an emissions polluted corridor. Collaborators and staff associated with the artwork are Back of the Yards community members. 

Emily Moorhead-Wallace is an art and artist advocate with a bachelor’s and master’s in fine arts. Her artwork is exhibited nationally, including public art pieces in Chicago, Illinois and Cincinnati, Ohio. She has been a featured instructor at various institutions including Miami University of Ohio and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, among others.  She has been an artist in residence at The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia, FugScreens in Chicago, Illinois, and the Springer School & Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Her current projects are environmental sculptures supporting native habitats and science education. Emily has donated her time to various community arts organizations focusing on engagement through fourteen years of non-profit experience. 

Public Art Projects:
– Nestful, 2021, collaboration with Janet Austin, Chicago Tree Project, 190 birdhouses in aging oak tree, Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL

– Pino: Habitat Tree, 2021, collaboration with Janet Austin, Corten steel with wood and natural materials, Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce/Special Service Area #31 Purchase, Chicago, IL

– Garden Respite, 2021, mobile steel bench with carved redwood, Springer School & Center education garden, Cincinnati, OH

– Meg Chilidea: Prairie Sanctuary, 2019-20, collaboration with Janet Austin, Pollinator Support Habitat, Corten steel with pollinator nests, Evanston Ecology Center, Evanston IL

J. Taylor Wallace
is a 3D mixed media artist with a BFA from The University of Tennessee and MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. He is the owner of Metal Magic Interiors Inc., a metal design and fabrication studio, with over ten years of experience providing durable, quality, handmade products. Emily is also an employee of Metal Magic Interiors. 

Public Art/Design Projects:
– Urban garden planters, TheMart River Park, collaboration with Bear Construction, 2020, 100 Corten planters and other steel accents, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL

– Way-finding system, 2014, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL

– A Spire, 2014, carved tree, Chicago Tree Project, McGuane Park, Chicago, IL

– We’re having a Tea Pear-ody, 2011, functional sculpture cooker, commissioned by the Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, TN, currently displayed at The Bridgeport Art Center Sculpture Garden, Chicago, IL


The artists have worked with Chicago Sculpture International, a Chicago based non-profit, as member artists and on the board of directors. Through eight years of this volunteer relationship, J Taylor and Emily have spearheaded various projects including expansion of public sculpture beyond popular and wealthy wards, development of national collaborations, and building a community educational outreach program. From this work, they have a continued relationship with the Chicago Park District that has also exhibited their art.

Emily and J. Taylor are passionate naturalists. In their studios and business they use locally sourced and often recycled/up-cycled materials. In their personal lives, they are avid gardeners focused on planting native varieties and supporting a positive wildlife environment.