Mundelein mayor breaks tie in vote to purchase sculpture for downtown

A large, metal sculpture by an artist with local ties will be added to the streetscape in downtown Mundelein this year.

Called "Glorious Ascent," the stainless steel piece from Kenosha sculptor Bruce Niemi resembles a flame rising from a torch. It's planned to be installed at the southwest corner of Park Street and Seymour Avenue, just east of the seasonal dining area along Park.

The sculpture will be installed in late spring or early summer, according to a memo from Community Development Director Amanda Orenchuk.

"Glorious Ascent" will cost the village $30,000. A concrete base and plaque will cost an additional $5,000.

The funding will come from the budgets for the Mundelein Arts Commission and the Kracklauer Fund for the Public Arts. That fund launched in 2020 with $10,000 in public seed money, and that sum will go toward this purchase, officials said.

The village board on Monday approved the purchase with a 4-3 vote. The panel was evenly divided until Mayor Steve Lentz broke the tie.

Trustee Eric Schwenk was among the opponents of the purchase. He expressed concern about possible religious connotations that could be associated with the sculpture's name, saying he doesn't want to spend taxpayer dollars in a way that appears to support any religion.

Colleen Malec, a senior planner with the village and village hall's liaison to the commission, said Niemi - a former Lake County resident whose mother lives in Mundelein - didn't object to the statue's name being changed.

Trustee Kerston Russell, who backed the purchase, suggested running a community contest to rename the sculpture. Lentz suggested a community survey as a mechanism.

Along with Russell, trustees Tim Wilson and Jenny Ross backed the purchase, while trustees Kara Lambert and Sol Cabachuela joined Schwenk in opposition.

Before the board's discussion, former mayoral candidate Thomas Ouimet criticized spending public money on art.

"Which one of you is going to stand up and say we can't do this?" Ouimet asked the trustees.

Lentz and two members of the arts commission quickly defended the proposed purchase.

Mundelein officials have embraced public art in recent years. Projects have included a mural on the side of a Park Street building, a statue at the police station and the installation of painted stars.

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