Public art contest winners picked in Elgin

  • Artist Joanna White is creating this mural on the south side of the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin. She is among three winners of the city's first public art contest.

      Artist Joanna White is creating this mural on the south side of the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin. She is among three winners of the city's first public art contest. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/6/2017 4:41 PM

Three artists won Elgin's first public art contest, and their mural and sculptures will be unveiled at the Art Harvest event in October.

Joanna White of Countryside was selected to paint a mural on the south side of the Hemmens Cultural Center, and Davis McCarty of Chicago and Nathan Pierce of Missouri will create sculptures to be displayed along Riverside Drive Promenade.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The winners were picked by the cultural arts commission, which sifted through 11 applications from Illinois and the Midwest, said commission liaison Amanda Harris, noting the artists are already at work on their pieces.

Commissioners picked their favorites without knowing the identity of the artists to ensure objectivity, and according to scored criteria such as uniqueness, technical competence and how the artwork relates to the city, Harris said. The pieces will have explanatory signage.

"'Why does it fit Elgin specifically?' That was a really important question we had," she said.

That approach can help prevent issues like a controversial mural put in storage last year after the city found out it was inspired by a 1930 photo of a lynching in Indiana.

Pierce said he's creating a stainless steel sculpture nearly 13 feet tall. His piece, "Continuum," is about "reconnecting ourselves to our environment and our landscape," he said. "One great way to be able to do that is by implementing public art into the landscape. It gives you an opportunity to revisit or reinvent the way you see your surroundings."

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The sculptures will be on loan to the city for two years and then for sale -- McCarty's for $12,000, Pierce's for $20,000 -- while the mural is expected to last 10 to 15 years depending on the weather, Harris said.

The commission initially announced it would sponsor two pieces of public art this year, at a commission of about $5,500 each, but was able to select three thanks to leftover money earmarked for individual artists grants, Harris said.

McCarty created an entryway piece for last year's Burning Man festival in Nevada, and Pierce's work includes a sculpture at Skokie's Northshore Sculpture Park, for which he won an award in 2013.

"I think for a first year this is a great pool of artists," Harris said.

The city put out a call for public art in the spring, but some artists, including one from Canada, said they didn't have enough time to submit an entry and create a piece in time, Harris said. The next public art contest will be publicized earlier, she said.

Art Harvest is Oct. 28 on DuPage Court in downtown Elgin and will include arts and crafts, "paint your own pumpkin" and an "art hunt" of public art.

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