Summer sculpture, classic cars gracing downtown Naperville

"Fun and functional" sculptures are coming this weekend to downtown Naperville in the form of 18 painted bucket chairs shaped like hollowed-out golf balls or baseballs.

The art, which will go on display Saturday morning, is part of a pre-Father's Day event that also includes the second annual downtown Naperville classic car show from 9 a.m. to noon along Jackson Avenue near Main, Webster and Eagle streets.

The Downtown Naperville Alliance has displayed sculptures in each of the past four years in the central business district. During each of those showings, organizers say, they found downtown visitors frequently wanted to pose for pictures with the art and often wound up sitting on the pieces.

So this year, the group decided to make things easier by going with pieces designed with sitting in mind.

"I love art that's tactile and that's something people can enjoy," said Angela Graefenhain, a Naperville artist who painted one of the chair sculptures to look like a peony in various stages of bloom. "It's not a no-touch kind of thing. It's so much better that they're interactive."

But visitors should treat the works of art with TLC, warns Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance. That way, the pieces glazed and sprayed by the Gerald Subaru body shop to protect them from the elements can stay in tiptop shape until after Labor Day.

Some of the sculptures have smooth surfaces, like a baseball without the stitching, and one even depicts a minor league game that took place in Naperville's small-town days. Others are dimpled like a golf ball, and one is even designed as "Vincent Van Golf."

Downtown businesses sponsor the sculptures and get to choose what to do with them once autumn hits and they're removed from Washington, Main and Webster streets and Chicago, Jackson, Jefferson and Van Buren avenues.

"The majority of them will be dispersed for a good cause," Wood said.

The sculpture display draws its origins from a fundraiser run for eight years in the 2000s by the United Way when it had a chapter in Naperville. The charity would post and then auction off decorated statues each summer in shapes featuring giraffes, dragons and carousel horses.

When the Downtown Naperville Alliance brought the tradition back in 2012, organizers went with a winter theme and set up snowmen. The next year it was gingerbread cookies, then trains; then the display came back to summer last year with cars to coincide with the first Father's Day weekend car show.

Up to 100 classic cars will be parked along Jackson Avenue to bring back another Naperville tradition - a car show formerly held at the Naper Settlement - that went dormant for a time.

"This community is so happy to be able to have something like this back," Wood said about car enthusiasts participating in the show. "They're so excited to be able to showcase their beautiful cars on Jackson Avenue along the Riverwalk."

The car show and sculpture viewing both are free, and all sculptures will be installed by 10 a.m. Visitors can vote for their favorites - be it the Star Wars Death Star, the Pac-Man figurine, the bright blue aquarium or any of the others - at

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This painted chair sculpture depicts a baseball game at a minor league ballpark in old-time Naperville as painted by artist Marianne Lisson Kuhn. This chair and 17 others will be on display throughout downtown Naperville starting Saturday morning until after Labor Day. Courtesy of Downtown Naperville Alliance
A vivid aquarium comes to life on one of the 18 chair sculptures to be posted Saturday morning in downtown Naperville, courtesy of artist Paul Kuhn. Courtesy of Downtown Naperville Alliance
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