Native Illinois prairie plants, on loan from the USDA Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, in Chicago exhibition through January 11

Contact(s): Veronica Hinke

News Release: Graham Foundation

Seeds and plants representing 15 native Illinois prairie species, on loan from the USDA Forest Service’s Midewin (pronounced: mih-DAY-win) National Tallgrass Prairie, will be featured through Saturday, January 11 in the “Unraveling Modern Living" exhibition by Mexico City-based Tatiana Bilbao Estudio. The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts is hosting the exhibition in the Madlener House – a historic prairie-style mansion in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood – as part of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial.  

The seeds and plants on loan from the USDA Forest Service represent three prairie habitat types: wet, dry and mesic. Wet: brown fox sedge; prairie sundrop; dark green bulrush; Culver's root; and swamp milkweed. Mesic: big bluestem; golden alexander; prairie dropseed; blue-eyed grass; and Ohio spiderwort. Dry: glade onion; side-oats grama; pale purple coneflower; porcupine grass; and marbleseed. In all, the display features 15 species, which is just a few of the over 275 different species of native Illinois prairie plants that volunteers, partners and staff are working with at Midewin. At Midewin, 3,000 acres of land that was once the Joliet Army Arsenal are undergoing active restoration or enhancement.     

The seeds and plants that are curated into this display provide a glimpse at the prairie restoration projects that volunteers, partners and staff at Midewin accomplish year-round. From clearing brush and monitoring water quality to planting and harvesting seed, actions that lead to enhanced habitats can encourage the return of some species of prairie grassland birds, bees and more that were here long ago and remain essential to the future of the prairie state.   

Illinois prairies will be the topic of a free presentation at Madlener House on Saturday, November 16, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Author and Midewin volunteer Arthur Pearson and Midewin Archaeologist, Tribal Liaison and Heritage Program Manager Joe Wheeler will share the history of Midewin and lead a conversation about prairie connections in the built and natural environments. 

Pearson is the former Director, Chicago Program for the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, where he guided investments in land conservation, the arts and collections. He is the author of Force of Nature (University of Wisconsin Press, 2017) an award-winning biography of George Fell, founder of The Nature Conservancy and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. A long-time volunteer at Midewin, Arthur is currently writing a book-length history of Midewin, entitled, A Midewin Almanac. To learn more:  

Wheeler is the Prairie Archaeologist, Heritage Program Manager and Tribal Liaison at the USDA Forest Service - Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Before coming to Midewin in 2013 he was a field archaeologist based out of the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain region, working throughout the West and Southwest United States. He attended graduate school in Anthropology, specializing in Archaeology, at the University of Wyoming and holds a BA from Loyola University of Chicago. 

Hours of “Unraveling Modern Living” are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., excluding holiday hours. Madlener House is located at 4 West Burton Place, Chicago, Illinois 60610. Contact: (312) 787-4071;