During the pandemic, Takeout 25 was created to help support local restaurants in Oak Park that were struggling to stay in business. The initiative, which started as neighbors helping neighbors, eventually turned into an organization that is still around today
Recently, Takeout 25 inspired an art installation at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Oak park artist Cody Norman’s “Plasticus Porticus” sculpture is made entirely of waste from takeout containers and was created by Norman in his studio at 5339 W. Lake Street in Austin.
“I started working with plastics in graduate school,” said Norman. “Only 10% of plastic gets recycled, so I enjoy exploring how my work can recycle and tie back to these conversations of environmental consciousness and sustainability.”
Oak Park Trustee Ravi Parakkat, founder of Takeout 25 and the organization’s board president, said Norman’s work is a representation of both the past and the future of Takeout 25.
The organization’s projects fall under at least one of three core pillars: helping local businesses, addressing food security and sustainability.
“The connection that supporting businesses had with waste from takeout containers bothered me a little bit,” said Parakkat. “This was a way to address that sustainability pillar.”
“Plasticus Porticus” features a vibrant 12-foot arch that Norman created using a combination of high-density polyethylene and polypropylene plastics.
Norman used more than 250 pounds of the material for his work, which he describes as “a small-scale effort that can lead to larger changes in how individuals in our community choose to consume single-use plastic.”
In collaboration with Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Clean Up Give Back student group, Takeout 25 and Norman collected waste from area homes.
The piece will sit in residence at the Chicago Botanic Garden through September to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the gardens. Parakkat said he hopes the sculpture can find a permanent home in Austin, where it was created.
While the studio where Norman works isn’t open to the public, he makes it a personal priority to engage with the neighborhood around him.
“I try to speak to folks and engage with them if they ask me what’s going on around here,” he said. “Folks have asked me what goes on in here and I tell them there’s a bunch of artists in there creating things. They tell me stories of racing go karts around the building when it was abandoned. I’ve learned so much about the history of this block from the residents.”
Parakkat said Takeout 25 wants to engage more with the Austin community and encourages small businesses in Austin to join their network.
“We want to break down the lines that exist with Austin. We’re always interested in the impact versus our intent,” Parakkat said. “Our members share everything from resources to professional connections and just general advice. We’d really like for Austin business owners to be in on this as well.”