As a boy growing up in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood, Walter Arnold would often bike through the University of Chicago campus and look at the buildings' various sculptures, many of them of Gothic design. It was the cathedral-like buildings of the school that ultimately convinced him of his purpose in life.
"After that, it was a matter of how I was going to do it," Arnold said.
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Nowadays, it is that same school he biked through years ago inviting him to present his works of sculptural stone carving. And his now-hometown library asking to display some of his work.
Arnold, a renown stone sculptor with more than 30 years experience in the professional sculpting world, is exhibiting some of his work in his latest hometown of Elgin at the Gail Borden Library.
Arnold spent five years working on the Washington, D.C., National Cathedral in the early 1980s. He came back to Chicago to establish his studio in 1985. Then in 2004, Arnold moved from Chicago to Elgin.
Arnold spends most of his time in his Elgin studio, working on various projects, either for commission or contract. His work ranges from classical and Renaissance to Gothic, Baroque and Arts & Crafts. Depending on the projects, his workdays are never consistent.
"There really is no typical day for me," Arnold said. "Every project is different."
For his wife, Fely, it wasn't until they met that his specialty in art became clearer to her.
"There are so many things, so many sculptures here or there that we don't usually see and don't take notice of," Fely said. "After meeting Walter, all this artwork became easy to spot."
She described her husband as "very creative and having a great vision for all his work." Her husband's work ethic may be attributed to his father, acclaimed photographer Rus Arnold. Working as a freelance photographer for most of Walter's childhood, the elder Arnold would often bring his work in to show Walter.
"Every time he brought in photos, I was getting exposed to new and interesting designs I hadn't experienced," Arnold said. "He often photographed Chicago architecture that was being torn down."
His father's work ethic gave Walter something to strive for. "Seeing someone working as a freelancer for so long, and surviving like he did, always inspired me."
His inspiration can be seen through his first Elgin exhibit at Gail Borden. Located on the second floor of the library, visitors can view various gargoyles and Gothic sculptures, keeping with the library's Medieval summer theme.
Denise Raleigh, director of marketing, development and communications at Gail Borden, said public response to the work has been positive. It's even garnering attention from the art scene.
"I've had other artists come in asking to get in touch with him," Raleigh said. "He's become somewhat of an Elgin treasure."
And Elgin is where Walter and his wife want to stay. He said they have no plans of leaving the area and looks forward to more years working on more creations.
"Many people in the field end up working into their 90s," Arnold said. "I feel that my career is only halfway done in retrospect. There is no set retirement date."
Arnold's art exhibit runs through August at the library, 270 N. Grove Ave. There will be a reception for Arnold at 2:30 p.m. Sunday followed by a program on carving at 3 p.m.