Push to diversify mural in downtown Naperville moving forward
A Downers Grove man who started an online petition to diversify a mural he described as "The Wall of Exclusion" in Naperville is set to meet Friday with the head of the nonprofit public art group that created it.
Tyler Marcus started the change.org petition after protests Monday, seeking more inclusion and representation of people of different backgrounds on the "Naperville Loves A Parade" mural in an alley west of Main Street between Jackson and Jefferson avenues.
Marcus is set to meet with Brand Bobosky, chairman of Century Walk Corp., which commissioned the mural dedicated in 2014, along with state Rep. Grant Wehrli, to discuss his broader goal of creating more diverse and inclusive art in Naperville.
"I don't expect for the wall to ever really be changed," Marcus said. "I guess my biggest achievement would be to get a new wall that shows more diversity."
Marcus said he noticed the artwork when in downtown for his job as a fitness trainer for people with disabilities.
"It was disappointing not being able to see the different ethnicities represented on the wall in a town that's clearly diverse," Marcus said.
He thought of the piece again this week when he attended the Monday protest, leaving before any vandalism or looting occurred.
"We need change now more than ever, and it can start with one small step towards inclusivity," Marcus wrote in the petition description.
The mural was painted by three artists, one from the Czech Republic, one from the Philippines and another a Naperville native. Donors who contributed a total of $220,000 toward the mural's four-year creation process got to see their images painted in.
The mural includes 310 people, 32 of them from diverse backgrounds with roots in countries including Colombia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan and the Philippines. Native Americans, Hispanics and people from Italy, Ireland, Poland and Germany also are shown. There are six African Americans pictured, Century Walk leaders said.
Marcus said he knew the mural portrayed images of donors who paid to support it, but he still finds its relative lack of inclusivity troubling.
"How do I explain the mural was built based off donations, based off money. That's not something a child would ever understand," Marcus said. "They do understand love, they do understand emotions, they do understand creativity. I think that would be something that should be represented on a wall."
Bobosky said Century Walk values diversity. In fact, it's part of the group's mission statement, which reads: "The Mission of Century Walk Corporation is to create culturally significant and diverse public art throughout Naperville in the 21st Century."
He said "Streaming History," a collection of five murals along the Riverwalk dedicated in 2017 at the New Water Street District, includes two pieces that "specifically call attention to diversity as our community has grown."
Bobosky said he's encouraged that Marcus and others interested in creating diverse art are reaching out.
"Their direction is our direction," he said.
As of Thursday afternoon, 30,960 people had signed the petition. Bobosky said he planned to meet with a group of diverse art supporters at the site Thursday night.