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Prairie Crossing, Grayslake, Illinois

A work made of chromogenic print, from the series "sweet earth: experimental utopias in america".

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  • A work made of chromogenic print, from the series "sweet earth: experimental utopias in america".


May 2005


Joel Sternfeld
American, born 1944

About this artwork


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Joel Sternfeld


Prairie Crossing, Grayslake, Illinois


United States


Made 2005


Chromogenic print, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"


No markings recto or verso Six weeks before this photograph was made the lawn was on fire—in a controlled burn. At Prairie Crossing, homeowners are encouraged to integrate native plantings and restored prairie into their landscaping and to recreate the true natural cycle of the prairie by burning it periodically. Prairie Crossing is a privately funded community, founded by Vicky and George Ranney and Dorothy and Gaylord Donnelly when a large parcel of farmland threatened by high-density development became available for purchase. They decided to use the land in a manner that was consonant with the rural character of the area. Funds generated from the sale of homes in the community have gone toward restoring surrounding prairie: sixty percent of the 677-acre site is protected open space, including 165 acres of restored prairie and 20 acres of restored wetlands. Sixteen acres of old hedgerows—tough trees planted in columns by the pionners to act as a wind block—have been preserved at Prairie Crossing, not only for their historic interest but also because they function as a wildlife corridor. Hardier and more sustainable native plants require less water and maintenance than conventional flora, and serve an important function in cleansing storm water as it flows into local lakes. Prairie Crossing’s Lake Aldo Leopold has water of such high quality that it was selected as a site for breeding endangered species of fish. Besides its commitment to environmental protection and enhancement, many other aspects of the community’s development plan—an onsite organic farm, a regional trail open to the public for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing, and a policy favoring economic and racial diversity—serve to indicate that private development can not only be responsible, it can take a proactive role in saving and preserving endangered landscapes and promoting societal good. In the words of Vicky Ranney, “You couldn’t save all the land you needed to if you depended on the government.” From the portfolio, Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, 1982–2005


26.5 × 33.2 cm (image); 27.9 × 35.5 cm (paper)

Credit Line

Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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