A new piece of public art was welcomed into downtown Wheaton with Friday's unveiling of "Full Sail."
Blustery winds added to the effect as Sculptor Bruce Niemi cut the tarp from his 1,000- pound stainless steel piece inspired by a sailboat. The sculpture is the latest addition to the Wheaton 121 luxury apartment development at 121 N. Cross St.
Niemi, whose resume includes "Remembered," a piece honoring the victims of the 2008 Northern Illinois University shootings, said he uses a lot of triangles in his work and is often inspired by sailing.
"My wife Susie and I love sailing. When you think of a sailboat, there's freedom. It's adventure. Think about America. It was discovered by some crazy people in an old sailboat sailing across the ocean," Niemi said Friday. "My work is meant to be positive and uplifting. God gave me the gift to be creative, so I try to make my work rise up. That's also a big factor in all of my work."
Niemi is also working on a sister piece, to be located at the intersection of Wesley and Scott streets, but he has not yet designed the piece.
David Strosberg, president of Chicago-based Morningside Group that developed the complex, said he has recently come to appreciate the effect public art has when combined with new projects and plans to include more.
"It enhances the pedestrian experience and the pastime in Wheaton is to walk around the downtown and look at the shops. It's another stop along the way," Strosberg said. "We like incorporating public art into our projects. It's something we're going to be doing more of in the future."
Mayor Michael Gresk called the piece part of Morningside's "overall plan to develop a top quality, top-notch facility,"
The first tenants began moving into the $60 million development on Sept. 1. Strosberg said Friday that 65 units are now occupied, despite the entire structure being less than 60 percent complete.
When it is complete in the spring of 2014, the entire Wheaton 121 development will consist of five levels of apartment homes and a two-level indoor parking garage with more than 400 spaces. Floor plans include five studios; 212 one-bedroom, one-bath homes; 66 two-bedroom, one-bath homes; 19 two-bedroom, two-bath homes; and four three-bedroom, two-bath homes.