Former Highlands Elementary School students and officials from Naperville's Century Walk Corporation will make a splash today. And not by jumping in a puddle.
The Naperville school and the public art organization will unveil Century Walk's 39th piece, a nearly 10-foot-tall concrete whale sculpture, at 12:45 p.m. on Highlands' south lawn. The dedication comes 14 years after sculptor Joe LaMantia's 1997 unveiling of the original, mostly wooden whale at the school.
Principal Susan Stuckey said the whale became a prominent figure in the school in 1983 when a student won a contest to create the school's new slogan, "A Whale of a School."
A collection of several smaller scale whale sculptures also grew in the school library in honor of a former student before the large wooden one took center stage. A combination of rot and insect damage eventually forced the removal of that sculpture.
"Back in 1997 when we (Century Walk organizers) were just getting started, Highlands School, which has always been a well organized and spirited school, created an original (wooden) whale," said Century Walk Chairman Brand Bobosky. "Over time, the elements destroyed the wood and school officials wanted to replace it with a more permanent structure."
Bobosky said the corporation was pleased to help this time around.
"Our first 30 pieces of Century Walk centered on public art representing significant people, places and events in Naperville throughout the last century," he said, "Then after the 30 pieces, we revised our mission statement to indicate we wanted to create significant public art throughout the community."
Stuckey said the new whale, aside from being a Century Walk piece, is also the school's first piece of exterior art created by fifth-graders as part of a long-standing program that includes working with resident artist Victoria Fuller to create a unique piece for the school before they move on to Kennedy or Washington junior high schools.
So the school came up with $9,000, paired it with $12,000 from Century Walk and worked with Fuller to design and create the new concrete sculpture.
Twenty former Highlands students will return today to participate in the dedication.
"The effort given toward creating this sculpture has been amazing from the parents' efforts to get a new whale and the students helping create it," Stuckey said. "And Century Walk's involvement really allows for this whale to be enjoyed, not just by our Highlands community but by the greater Naperville community."