Fundraising starts for diversity artwork in Naperville
It's the early stages of a new public art idea in Naperville, but the push to create a work that portrays the city's increasingly diverse population is underway.
After a Downers Grove man started an online petition calling for changes to what he called "The Wall of Exclusion" in a downtown alley, a Naperville resident on Friday morning started a GoFundMe page seeking $100,000 to help the public art nonprofit group Century Walk Corp. create a new piece. The page drew $4,821 donations in seven hours.
Sun Kwok of Naperville said creating new art, instead of altering the works of the past, should be the focus as the city seeks ways to illustrate diversity and inclusion.
The petition creator, Tyler Marcus, described 2014's "Naperville Loves a Parade" mural as exclusionary. But Century Walk officials said the mural depicts faces of people from Colombia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines and Poland as well as Native Americans and six African Americans. The mural features the faces of donors who contributed a total of $220,000 to the project's price tag.
"When you want to change existing artwork, that's almost like changing our history to meet our current views," said Kwok, who declined the chance about a decade ago to donate for his image to be included. "We need to honor both our past and our present."
Marcus, whose petition had drawn 41,379 signatures as of Friday afternoon, said that's actually his end goal, too.
Now Marcus and Kwok are working with Brand Bobosky, chairman of Century Walk, and other leaders including state Rep. Grant Wehrli of Naperville and Chicago Public Schools teacher Crystle Saylor of Chicago, to create what Saylor described as "a diverse educational piece of art," which Wehrli said will be all-inclusive.
"It's not just about race, so it's also special needs, LGBTQ," Wehrli said. "It's about everyone is welcome and we're all in this together."
The group wants to work under the guidance of a professional artist to include youths from Naperville and Chicago in the new creation, Saylor said.
The push for a diverse piece began during a week of protests about the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
"If you want to make a change when people support it," Kwok said, "this is the time to do it."
But in the first few hours of the fundraiser, Kwok said, he already has heard the concern, "could $100,000 be better spent somewhere else?"
"Yes," he said, is his answer, and he's helped in the past with causes such as scholarships, library resources and refurbishment of computers for students in need. "But we have to focus."
Anyone interested in participating in the project as it develops can reach out to Kwok at email@example.com or to Century Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.