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updated: 7/27/2010 11:21 AM

New book details Century Walk art and its homage to Naperville's past

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  • Jini Clare wrote "Century Walk: Art Imitating History" about Naperville's public art project that this year added a sculpture of Dick Tracy. Clare and at least 18 of Century Walk's artists will be at a book signing today at North Central College's Wentz Hall.

      Jini Clare wrote "Century Walk: Art Imitating History" about Naperville's public art project that this year added a sculpture of Dick Tracy. Clare and at least 18 of Century Walk's artists will be at a book signing today at North Central College's Wentz Hall.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer


There's a new path residents and art-lovers everywhere can follow to see the 35 murals, mosaics and sculptures that make up downtown Naperville's Century Walk.

Jini Leeds Clare is the creator of that new path, and she takes readers step by step through the entire public art project with her new book "Century Walk: Art Imitating History."

Clare and more than 18 of Century Walk's artists will be in attendance from 7 to 9 p.m. today at a public book-signing for "Century Walk" in North Central College's Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave.

Brand Bobosky, president of Century Walk Corporation, is excited about the release of the book and said the event will be a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for people to garner knowledge of Naperville and Century Walk history by meeting the resident author and some resident artists.

"It's a very classy, well-done, professional, attractive book," he said. "It's uniquely Naperville. I think it's going to be a significant gift item for people moving here, as well as people leaving here, as well as residents that are here."

Clare served on the Century Walk board for 12 years and has written books on Naperville before.

"I knew in great detail how we selected the artists and why we chose the subjects we did," she said. "I really knew very intimately how this Century Walk project was progressing and the board asked me if I would write the book. I was happy and very honored to accept."

Clare said the book took more than two years to complete because once she began to look at each art piece more in depth, she wanted to know more about what inspired it, how it was made and the background of each artist.

"We have a lot of exciting artists who are very accomplished and who have inspirational personal stories about the impact of art on their own lives," she said. "It just seemed they needed to be a very important part of this story as well."

Clare was able to find the artist, or a surviving member of their family, for every piece except for the "Spirit of the American Doughboy" sculpture. For that one, and a few others, Clare had to travel to find the answers she was looking for.

For example, she interviewed Emmanuel Martinez, the creator of two pieces in the Century Walk collection, at his home in Colorado.

"It was wonderful to really talk with him and see him in his studio environment," she said about the sculptor, a leader in the Chicano art movement and who has three pieces in the Smithsonian Museum.

For the World War I "Doughboy" sculpture, Clare traveled to the public library in artist E. M. Viquesney's Indiana town to complete interviews.

"Jini had a very professional approach in describing all the elements about the 35 pieces," Bobosky said. "We believe (the book) will have a lengthy shelf life because the art is permanent. It should be good for today's reader as well as someone who picks it up in 10 years."

The cover of the coffee-table book is graced with a photo of the collection's colorful and busy "World's Greatest Artists" mural, an appropriate preview to the 300 pictures and 112 pages of immense research that readers will find inside.

Clare hopes the book will inspire others who want to do something like this in their own communities.

"For a community this size to do a free outdoor gallery of public art is very unusual, and inspirational," she said. "I think a lot of communities, by reading this book, can learn how they can do something similar in their community.

"So it's not just limited to people from Naperville who would be interested in the book, it would be people who really enjoy art and might want to bring something like this to their own towns," she added.

The whole Century Walk project, which began in 1996 with the initial goal to add three pieces of outdoor artwork in Naperville annually for 10 years, has been funded principally through private donations and Naperville Special Events and Cultural Amenities grants.

But Bobosky doesn't want the project to rely on financial gifts forever, he said.

"They're going to be probably reduced, let's hope not eliminated," he said about the grants. "We need to create a revenue stream and this (book) is going to be our first of several ventures into doing just that."

Bobosky said two more Century Walk pieces are expected to be revealed by the end of this year, including one at the Van Buren parking deck, where a mural will be completed on each of the structure's five floors by students from every high school in districts 203 and 204 for the next five years.

The other will be displayed at the 95th street YMCA to celebrate the organization's 100-year presence in town.