Naperville task force aims to fix 'broken system' for funding, administering public art

New Naperville panel will examine funding

  • The "River Reveries" mosaic-covered benches in Naperville are part of the Century Walk project. The nonprofit Century Walk Corp. has sponsored 51 pieces since 1996.

    The "River Reveries" mosaic-covered benches in Naperville are part of the Century Walk project. The nonprofit Century Walk Corp. has sponsored 51 pieces since 1996. Daily Herald file photo

Posted5/27/2021 5:30 AM

When it comes to advancing public art in Naperville, members of a new exploratory task force have the same goals: consistent financing, diverse oversight and an inclusive program that benefits the community.

The path to get there isn't quite as clear.


Stemming from a recent city council directive, the task force was formed to develop a comprehensive process for selecting, administering, funding and maintaining artwork in the city. The panel comprises city officials and stakeholders in the community's art scene, including representatives from Century Walk Corp., a primary facilitator of Naperville's public art for the last 25 years.

The nonprofit, which has sponsored 51 pieces since 1996, presented its own long-range plan earlier this year that would rely on an annual $200,000 city contribution to enhance and carry out its mission over the next decade.

Reviewed and discussed by the task force Wednesday, that proposal could serve as a "springboard" for creating a citywide program with some municipal oversight, member Shannon Greene Robb said.

But Century Walk President Brand Bobosky said the task force appears headed down two divergent paths. One focuses on advancing his nonprofit's plan, which aims to "alleviate the burden of public art administration from the city and continue to bring innovative, relative, evocative installations to Naperville," according to the proposal. The other would work to establish a separate commission under the city's purview.

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Councilwoman Theresa Sullivan said it's not an "either-or" situation. The goal is to replace Naperville's "broken system" for funding public art with a more transparent, equitable and consistent process that would ultimately support Century Walk and other community art initiatives, she said.

"We don't see it as a burden. We see it as an opportunity," Sullivan said of the city's involvement.

The special events cultural amenities commission currently recommends which festivals, art programs and other applicants should receive grant funding through the city's 1% food and beverage tax revenue each year.

That's the process Century Walk has historically gone through to secure funding for its installations, though officials say the amount awarded has been inconsistent in recent years. Task force members agree the uncertainty makes it difficult to plan and bring ideas to fruition.

A formal public art program would aim to address those issues, Chairman Melvin Kim said, but funding is only one piece of the puzzle.

Task force member Tony Andrews says he wants to ensure public art initiatives have oversight from a diverse group, including residents of all ages, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.


Kim says separate policies should be developed to manage community-led curation versus city-initiated art.

"We do need to be mindful of every piece that's involved," Kim said. "No question is a bad question because we need to have a full understanding of the complexity and size of what we're dealing with here."

Art: Century Walk officials say funding amount has been inconsistent

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