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updated: 12/31/2012 3:01 PM

Artist's work benefits Wheeling food pantry

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  • Prints of the holiday display at North School Park in Arlington Heights created by artist Joseph Burlini are available in exchange for a donation to the Wheeling Township Food Pantry.

    Prints of the holiday display at North School Park in Arlington Heights created by artist Joseph Burlini are available in exchange for a donation to the Wheeling Township Food Pantry.
    Courtesy Joseph A. Burlini


Artist Joseph A. Burlini typically creates large, outdoor sculpture pieces that can be seen at locations around the country, including the Pentagon and the Chicago Botanic Garden, as well as in his hometown of Arlington Heights.

His latest work is on a much smaller scale, but serves a great cause.

Burlini created a pencil drawing of one of his favorite holiday settings, North School Park in Arlington Heights. With its more than a dozen light displays, as well as the recent Nativity scene added, the festive setting holds plenty of interest for the artist.

"I've always been attracted to all things magical, fun, and kidlike," Burlini says. "As a sculptor, I'm known for having a whimsical style that translates into brightly colored, kinetic sculptures with balanced artistry."

Combine that style with his love of toys -- he has a collection of antique toys -- and it explains his interest in creating a print that explores the whimsy of the North School Park display.

Working with printer Dave Ebel of 3E Marketing Communications in Arlington Heights, he has produced a limited edition of 500 hand-signed and numbered prints. The print is 14 inches by 17 inches, unframed, and in black and white.

His price? A donation to the Wheeling Township Food Pantry, whose shelves need replenishing after the holiday rush.

"We are asking people to bring a minimum of 10 nonperishable food items to receive their gift," says Burlini, whose wife Sue Ellen retired four years ago as Wheeling Township's senior and disabilities services coordinator.

"We have lots of food drives, starting in October that take us through the holidays, but by the time we get to January and February, it really dwindles," says Jo Stelatto, Wheeling Township administrator. "We use cash donations from the holidays to replenish the shelves."

Pantry officials expanded their space last spring to accommodate a growing demand. They regularly draw more than 400 family visits per month, Stelatto said. Wheeling Township serves residents in Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Wheeling, as well as parts of Des Plaines and Mount Prospect.

Although Burlini is primarily a sculptor, he has done many drawings.

He twice was commissioned by Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder to execute prints that depict historic landmarks in Arlington Heights, and for several years he created a Christmas card for Arlington Park.

Burlini also has been commissioned by celebrities, including Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Muhammad Ali and Mike Ditka, to create drawings for charitable causes.

In Arlington Heights, his sculptures include "Aspire" in front of Northwest Community Hospital's Wellness Center, the Clock Tower near the Arlington Heights Metra station, and machine sculptures and a diorama in the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.

"It's a joy to be able to give back to the community through my art," Burlini said. "May this be the beginning of a new year where we truly help our neighbors in need."

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