Sawmill sculpture provides 'right element' for Naperville nature center

  • Steel from a salvage lot in Chicago Heights helped artist Lucy Slivinski add detail to her 14-foot-tall sculpture of a historic sawmill that now stands outside the new Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville.

    Steel from a salvage lot in Chicago Heights helped artist Lucy Slivinski add detail to her 14-foot-tall sculpture of a historic sawmill that now stands outside the new Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • A 14-foot-tall sawmill sculpture now adorns the front entrance of the new Knoch Knolls Nature Center at 320 Knoch Knolls Road in Naperville. The sculpture, by Chicago artist Lucy Slivinski, will be dedicated during the nature center's grand opening at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2.

    A 14-foot-tall sawmill sculpture now adorns the front entrance of the new Knoch Knolls Nature Center at 320 Knoch Knolls Road in Naperville. The sculpture, by Chicago artist Lucy Slivinski, will be dedicated during the nature center's grand opening at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • The top of a 14-foot-tall sawmill sculpture at the Knoch Knolls Nature Center depicts how wood and tools would have been stored when a mill operated at the site in the mid-1800s.

    The top of a 14-foot-tall sawmill sculpture at the Knoch Knolls Nature Center depicts how wood and tools would have been stored when a mill operated at the site in the mid-1800s. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • A stylized water wheel is part of the bottom of a 14-foot-tall sculpture at Knoch Knolls park in south Naperville. The sculpture is outside the entrance to the new Knoch Knolls Nature Center, which has a theme "Celebrating Water."

    A stylized water wheel is part of the bottom of a 14-foot-tall sculpture at Knoch Knolls park in south Naperville. The sculpture is outside the entrance to the new Knoch Knolls Nature Center, which has a theme "Celebrating Water." Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/17/2014 9:57 AM

As Naperville Park District's new Knoch Knolls Nature Center approaches its grand opening Oct. 2, Chicago artist Lucy Slivinski thinks she might have installed the finishing touch.

A 14-foot-tall sculpture she created to represent a historic sawmill that used to be at the site was installed this month, and Slivinski said it fits with the $6 million nature center and its theme, "Celebrating Water."

 

The park district completed the nature center in early September and began hosting preschool classes there while still working on other improvements, including a permeable paver parking lot, an expanded disc golf course, a nature playground, a canoe launch and new trail connections.

"And then we put up this piece and it was just like the right element that sort of made everything make sense about why that park is there and its relationship to the river," Slivinski said about her steel sawmill sculpture now standing outside the Knoch Knolls Nature Center at 320 Knoch Knolls Road. "Plus it really is a piece of art. That also makes the experience more personal."

The sculpture was installed in a partnership between the park district and Naperville's public art group Century Walk Corp., which will repay the park district $30,000 for the piece as money becomes available. Century Walk has installed 47 pieces of art in Naperville since 1996, and the sawmill sculpture is its 48th.

"We're getting to the point where people see that public art is desirable," Century Walk Chairman Brand Bobosky said. "They're willing to take the lead and partner with us so we can get it on the Century Walk."

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The sawmill sculpture eventually will be connected with plumbing so water can flow down a sluiceway to show how the historic mill would have worked. But the piece isn't meant to be a fully functional mill.

"It evokes the old historic mill that was there in the mid-1800s at the river. It's not meant to be the complete mill, but it has a lot of elements of it," said Sue Omanson, the park district's community development manager. "Visitors can see how the settlers first used water to speed up the process of milling wood for their homes. It's just a way of showing how the river was used historically."

Omanson said the sculpture will be dedicated during the nature center's grand opening ceremony from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2.

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