Fe, fi, fo, fum. 

In front me was a giant bean… with no giant nor a beanstalk in sight.

The bean was silver, highly polished, and 33 feet tall. It was surrounded by thousands of paving stones covered in hundreds of human beings gazing at it. Further afield, there were towering skyscrapers overlooking it from the west and north.

A month earlier, I had given my artist wife an annual membership to the Art Institute of Chicago for our 10th anniversary. 

Of course, living in a western Canadian suburb rendered this gift utterly useless without a trip to the Windy City, which I had previously — and conveniently — booked. 

She was excited. So much art!

I was excited too. My beloved Blue Jays were playing a once-per-decade three-game series in the hallowed confines of Wrigley Field!

Despite our excitement for wildly different reasons, while in Chicago we came across an uncountable number of sights — from unique art installations to dramatically ironic situations — you wouldn’t happen upon in our western Canadian suburb.

Large puddle not draining from the road + Chicago Water Management vehicle = Irony.

There I stood the day after I had left my wife at the Art Institute wondering if I would ever see her again (good news: I did). 

The blue sky was littered with marshmallow-white clouds. The summer sun highlighted their fluffy curves as its rays warmed the city and its denizens of skyscrapers. 

Despite being dwarfed by those ever-present skyscrapers, this 33-foot-tall bean dominated the skyline. 

It also dominated the attention of those clamoring to grab a picture of this iconic art installation in Millennium Park on what used to be the grounds of the Illinois Central rail yards. It had been 50 years since a train had run through carrying loads of freshly harvested crops from the midwest US. 

I suspect, however, none of those trains ever carried a legume this large.

As I stood there in awe of this oversized bean, I couldn’t help but be struck by the scale of what I was looking at. 

In reality, this giant bean is a world-famous art installation designed by British artist Anish Kapoor. It also appears to be a testament to one man’s obsession with liquid mercury (not Freddie). 

“The Cloud Gate” is the name given to this giant bean. It is named for the fact that it reflects the marshmallow-white clouds, among other things, and has a 12-foot arch underneath that can be walked under like an entry gate. Funny how that works out. 

This art installation reflects the clouds and has an archway — or gate — underneath it. Hence, it’s called “Cloud Gate.”

However, the giant bean was simply one of many unique art installations we encountered in downtown Chicago on our trip. At 110 tons, it was also the heaviest. Easily. 

Chicago is a world-class city. To support that status, their municipal planners have clearly figured out how and where to place public art. 

When done right, art can add much to the vibrancy of a community. 

And the pieces can work together to tell a story. Like, for example, if they were to erect a giant fork and knife next to the giant bean.

I’d hate to see the giant at the end of that beanstalk, however.

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