Naperville’s Century Walk — It’s Art…With a Story
Genevieve looks up at us from her bench outside of Barnes and Noble on Washington Street. The Cat and the Hat practically takes our hand and strolls with us into Nichols Library. Officer Friendly, known to us today as Mayor Pradel, reminds the children of Naperville to be careful on one way streets ensuring the safety of our town’s youngest citizens. We are reminded of uncommon valor when we gaze upon five of Naperville’s most highly decorated servicemen from World War II immortalized in the bronze sculpture Veterans’ Valor in the plaza next to the YMCA.
Each of these works is just one of the 40+ pieces of public art that make up Naperville’s Century Walk.
In 1996, Century Walk began as a public art initiative featuring murals, mosaics, reliefs, mobiles, and sculptures throughout downtown Naperville. Each of the first 30 pieces in some way represents the history of Naperville during the twentieth century through people, places and events. It is a fascinating way to portray the history of Naperville through public art. Several of the last pieces were not limited to historical themes as they expand the body of artwork throughout Naperville.
What makes the Century Walk stand out among public art projects is that the art work embraces the community which it represents, and the community which it represents becomes involved in the pieces of art themselves. As you look upon the faces in the crowd of The Great Concerto at the Community Concert Center in Central Park, do you recognize anyone? Look closely. This was Century Walk’s 23rd piece of public art, and the faces of over 56 residents of our community are depicted on this epic work. The inclusion of the faces was part of a fund-raiser by Century Walk to help fund the project. The muralist, Bart Gunderson, spent 1,600 hours creating The Great Concerto. Because of the timelessness of this historic piece, we can delight in finding the faces of our friends, family and neighbors, not only in the crowd during summer concerts, but also in the artwork itself.
Does art have to be displayed in a gallery or painted on a canvas? Brand Bobosky did not believe so. “Think of it like an art institute, but there are no rooms and you can touch it,” the president of the non-profit Century Walk said with a smile. The art of Century Walk is meant for everyone. You can see adults sitting on the River Reveries, the turn-of-the-century-style mosaic lounges, relaxing; children play with the interactive sculpture, Parting the Prairie, with its trains and levers outside the DuPage Children’s Museum. Fond memories come flooding back to old-time Naperville residents of Soukups, Dime Stores, and transistor radios when they see the mural of The Way We Were in an alley off Washington Street.
Century Walk has many significant pieces of art reflecting on over 100 years of Naperville’s history. The organization has dedicated these 40+ pieces of public art so that we will not forget these people, these places, and these events that have made us what and who we are. We have made public art visual, tangible, and placed it where everyone can experience it.
You may learn more about the many public artworks of Century Walk by spending time on this website, or by heading outside to visit the art yourself. Enjoy!