Summer of art shaping up for Naperville's Century Walk
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Artist Adela Vystejnova works on the "Naperville Loves a Parade" mural in October 2011 in downtown Naperville. The mural is one of four Century Art projects scheduled for completion this year.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the sculptor who created the form of the Joseph Naper statue. The sculptor's name is Jeff Adams.
The founder of Naperville, the U.S. Navy, the artistic talents of high school students and the spirit of a parade all are being highlighted in works of outdoor public art being developed this summer by the Century Walk Corp.
The group's public art mission has grown since the organization formed in 1996 from an original focus on downtown and telling the story of Naperville's first 100 years to a broader goal of placing quality art throughout the city, Chairman Brand Bobosky said.
Two of four pieces in the works will be placed downtown, while the others won't be far from the city's commercial core. When complete, Century Walk will have installed 44 pieces of public art since its creation.
This year's pieces feature high school student artwork in the Van Buren parking deck; a mural of community members watching a parade in the alley west of Main Street between Gap and Talbots; a 9½-foot statue of Naperville founder Joseph Naper at Mill Street and Jefferson Avenue; and a sculpture of a sailor in uniform near the "Spirit of the American Doughboy" in Burlington Square Park.
Here's an update on the four Century Walk projects in the order in which they're expected to be finished.
A statue of Naperville's founding settler as a 33-year-old land surveyor is set to be unveiled Friday, Aug. 23, in the historic interpretive site at Jefferson Avenue and Mill Street.
"It is the beginnings of Naperville, where Joseph and his family called home," said Bryan Ogg, curator of research for Naper Settlement.
The settlement found grant funding for the $185,000 sculpture and developed how it would look, while Century Walk organizers helped staff members find artists.
In the bronze-cast sculpture, Naper is shown near a tree stump with an ax and a box of tools, Ogg said. Cartoonist Dick Locher, known for drawing Dick Tracy, sketched the statue from the only known image of Naper, which shows him at a "stern" 59. Sculptor Jeff Adams created its form.
"Here's a young charismatic businessman, he's a sailor on the Great Lakes, and he's coming out to the wilderness, the prairie and timber of Illinois, to found a town," Ogg said. "That's the heroic statue we wanted to create."
Artwork adorning the walls and elevator waiting areas of the Van Buren parking garage is scheduled to be finished this summer, completing a three-year collaboration between Century Walk and the nonprofit group KidsMatter.
The first and second floors will be painted by about 20 high school students — 10 from Neuqua Valley and 10 from Metea Valley — under the guidance of artist Timm Etters.
The final round of painting is expected to take two to three weeks and could conclude in August. Students from all five high schools in Naperville Unit District 203 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 have been involved through KidsMatter, which works to empower youths and families to effectively manage the stresses of everyday life.
"This project really is a bulletin board for our community, for anyone who passes through that garage," Kids Matter Executive Director IdaLynn Wenhold said. "What it says is that our community values young people and we take pride in the contributions they make"
Spirit of the Navy
One of four works Century Walk dedicated in 2003 was "The Spirit of the American Doughboy," a restored sculpture of a soldier by E.M. Viquesney, now on display at Burlington Square Park.
Ten years later, Century Walk is looking to install the Doughboy's sailor counterpart, "Spirit of the American Navy," by the same artist at the same park.
Century Walk bought the 1920s-era statue — the only one of eight that was privately owned — and has contributed $25,000 to the project; but about $72,820 more must be raised before the sailor can be installed. Additional funding will pay for a granite pedestal, fountain, sidewalks, benches, lighting, landscaping and design of a new plaza.
The city has chipped in with $25,000, and the park district has agreed to maintain the sculpture at an estimated value of $2,000 a year. Veterans groups such as Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 plan to raise money for the rest, said Navy veteran Terry Jelinek.
"Standing in the center of the park you can look either way and see either the Navy or the Army represented, and we think that will be a fitting tribute," Jelinek said.
Century Walk board member Steve Hyett researched the Doughboy 10 years ago and recently heard the Navy sculpture was being sold by a shop in Michigan.
"It's amazing how rare this piece is," Hyett said. "I'm so glad we're going to bring him to Naperville for all to see."
Century Walk leaders and Naperville veterans said they hope the 1920s-era statue can be dedicated on Oct. 13 — the birthday of the U.S. Navy.
Loves a Parade
The colorful, modern parade scene across from the black and white "Parade of the Century" mural in the alley west of Main Street between Gap and Talbots is coming together and Bobosky said it could be complete this year.
Businesses and spectators depicted in Century Walk's largest mural are watching the "Parade of the Century" from across the alley, and they're real Napervillians. Bobosky said interested donors still can donate to have themselves or someone they care about painted into the scene. For details, visit centurywalk.org or call (630) 355-5553.
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