Elmhurst considers arts commission to promote, add to public art

  • Elmhurst could create a public arts commission that would promote existing art in the city, including sculptures outside the Elmhurst Art Museum.

      Elmhurst could create a public arts commission that would promote existing art in the city, including sculptures outside the Elmhurst Art Museum. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • A sculpture next to city hall is one of many examples of public art in Elmhurst. There's a proposal to create a public arts commission that would work to get new pieces installed while promoting existing ones.

      A sculpture next to city hall is one of many examples of public art in Elmhurst. There's a proposal to create a public arts commission that would work to get new pieces installed while promoting existing ones. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted2/26/2018 5:34 AM

From the sculpture next to city hall to several pieces outside the art museum, Elmhurst has a significant public art collection, local art enthusiasts say.

But people might not be aware of it.

 

"We have a lot of really significant pieces of art that are available to be seen by the public," Alderman Marti Deuter said. "But we don't draw as much attention to it as I think we could."

That could change as Deuter spearheads a proposal to create a public arts commission.

Initially, the group would work to raise awareness about existing public art in Elmhurst. Eventually, it would work to get permanent public art pieces installed throughout town.

"The possibilities for a group like this are endless," she said. "Our proposal is to just start with some very practical and obtainable goals and then build from there."

Deuter has enlisted the support of Mayor Steve Morley and Alderman Scott Levin, who is chairman of the city council's public affairs and safety committee. The panel tonight is expected to begin its review of the public arts commission idea.

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After the committee completes its review, it will send a recommendation to the full council, which will make the final decision.

In a two-page overview of the proposal, supporters say numerous communities, including Arlington Heights, Lombard and West Chicago, have created commissions to direct public art initiatives. Naperville and LaGrange have public art displays arranged by civic organizations.

Believing that public art attracts visitors and adds vibrancy to Elmhurst, Deuter started meeting with a group of about five people to brainstorm and build ideas. The group met multiple times last year to review programs in other cities and get input from the Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst Public Library and local artists.

"The response was very enthusiastic and supportive," Deuter said.

The proposal calls for the commission to have two to four community members who are art supporters. It also would include representatives from the city, art museum, college, library, Elmhurst City Centre and the Elmhurst Artists Guild.

"I don't know that cities are generally really good at art," Levin said. "But this is an opportunity for the city to sponsor a group that could help encourage and develop public displays with the imprimatur of the city of Elmhurst on it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If created, the commission's first task will be to inventory existing public art in the city. It then would work with Explore Elmhurst and other partners to create promotional materials.

"Ultimately, the commission will take the lead on increasing the number of permanent public art pieces that are on display in Elmhurst," Deuter said.

That process would involve identifying high-priority locations for public art and providing a framework to support projects and raise money to pay for them.

Morley said forming a public arts commission is a good idea because parts of the city, including downtown, could benefit from new art pieces.

"I think it enhances quality of life," Morley said. "You can't put a piece of art downtown and say it's the reason a person showed up. But it does enhance the experience."

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