When the Skokie Park District staff diversity committee began meeting in 2016, the first idea they agreed upon was to create a piece of art for the renovated Weber Leisure Center lobby, welcoming their customers in many languages.
“Several School District 219 surveys over the years have shown that nearly 100 languages are spoken in Skokie homes,” said committee chair and assistant recreation superintendent Jon Marquardt. “The committee decided that welcoming non-English speaking residents would be a great way to engage and include those who might not otherwise be interested in park district programs.”
With the renovation of the building’s lobby completed in 2018, it was time for the piece to go up. Before the sign was even fully mounted, customers were gathered around it, looking for familiar languages and wondering aloud how many languages were spoken in Skokie.
The 72 languages on the sign, while in no way comprehensive, even for Skokie, is meant not only to be welcoming, but to be a conversation starter, according to Marquardt.
“This fabulous piece of art is a symbol –– a statement,” said Mira Barbir as she exited her yoga class. “It clearly says to everyone that walks in this building, there is no ‘other’ in Skokie; everyone is welcome here.”