Elgin's public art plan set to kick off with mural, sculpture

  • The Elgin City Council gave an enthusiastic OK -- with a final vote expected in two weeks -- to the city's first public art plan. One of the first two pieces will be installed this fall on the southernmost pedestal along the Riverside Drive promenade.

      The Elgin City Council gave an enthusiastic OK -- with a final vote expected in two weeks -- to the city's first public art plan. One of the first two pieces will be installed this fall on the southernmost pedestal along the Riverside Drive promenade. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/15/2017 6:21 PM

Downtown Elgin will have a new outdoor mural and sculpture this fall, the first of what the city hopes will be lots of public art that will expand to parks and other neighborhoods in coming years.

The cultural arts commission has created Elgin's first public art program, which got an enthusiastic thumbs-up from the city council's committee of the whole Wednesday night. A final vote is expected in two weeks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The first mural will go on the south wall of the Hemmens Cultural Center, and the first sculpture will be on the southernmost pedestal along Riverside Drive promenade, said Amanda Harris, city staff liaison to the commission.

"Not only these opportunities help shape Elgin's image as 'the city in the suburbs,' but it helps shape Elgin as a city of the arts," Harris said.

Having public art creates the potential for cultural and economic development, Councilman Terry Gavin said. "We can put something pretty where something right now may not be so pretty," he said.

"We put together a really comprehensive process that will guide us for years to come," Councilwoman Tish Powell said.

"It sounds really exciting," Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger said.

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A call put out in the spring for proposals from artists -- who'd get commissions of $5,500 each -- has yielded 11 applications, including two from Elgin, five from elsewhere in Illinois, along with Missouri, Minnesota, Kansas and Michigan.

Once the public art plan is approved, the cultural arts commission will select the two winning works to be installed by October, Harris said.

"We are all very excited in the quality and the talent that we saw (in the applications)," said Powell, who serves as the council's liaison to the commission.

The plan starting next year includes several initiatives:

• Two new pieces of public art, one two-dimensional and one three-dimensional, each year.

• A "spontaneous art wall" during the summer, consisting of a temporary white panel wall set up by the city to which anyone can add art.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• A "donate-a-wall" program for business owners who are interested in having outdoor murals at their own expense and facilitated by the commission.

• Neighborhood public art grants, available to groups who have support from local residents and can fund 50 percent of the project on their own.

• A program to adorn utility boxes with artwork on anti-graffiti vinyl.

• Opportunities for residents and business owners to sponsor the cost of additional public art pieces.

The cultural arts commission gets $50,000 in city riverboat money to allocate grants, and $77,000 from the general fund for things like events marketing. The public art plan, along with a new art database, will be funded this year by $20,000 in carry-over money from previous years. Beginning next year, the commission would request an additional $20,000 in funding, Harris said.

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