From murals to sculptures and more, momentum surrounding public art projects in Decatur has been building gradually over the past few years.
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The Decatur Mural Project was established in 2012 to create partnerships with artists, property owners, the City, local volunteers, and sponsors or funding agencies for the creation of murals for the beautification of Decatur buildings. The murals are also intended to showcase the creative abilities of our local artists.
The project’s first mural was painted on the west side of the Central Illinois Title Co. building, 145 S. Water St. during the July 4th weekend 2013. The mural depicts our city’s namesake Commodore Stephen Decatur leading a daring, night-time raid to destroy an enemy ship. It was sponsored by Main Place Properties and was painted by its designer Jerry Johnson, local artist and Executive Director of the Decatur Area Arts Council.
In 2015, a group of private citizens commissioned local artist Shani Goss to design and paint a mural in honor of the Decatur’s late Mayor MikeMcElroy. It was painted during the Decatur Celebration weekend on the west-facing wall of 240 N. Park St., directly across from Central Park. The design includes McElroy's signature smile and symbols and colors to represent his personality and love of Decatur.
A few weeks later, Jerry Johnson and group of volunteers completed another mural on the west wall of 111 E. Main St. Sponsored by the Nims Foundation, the mural features Decatur Staleys and Chicago Bears football players, along with George Halas (young and old) paying homage to Decatur's heritage as the birthplace of the Chicago Bears.
2016 mural plans include another Shani Goss design at 702 E. Eldorado St. (east facing wall) in July (and maybe a second later in the year).
The Scovill Sculpture Park arose from a conversation in October 2015 involving the Decatur Parks Foundation, Decatur Park District, Children’s Museum of Illinois, Decatur Area Arts Council, and Neuhoff Media. Located between Scovill Zoo and the Children’s Museum of Illinois, the Scovill Sculpture Park will include 12 temporary sculptures, plus one permanent sculpture to serve as the centerpiece of the park. The initial group of temporary sculptures will be installed on July 14 and 15, 2016 with a Community Walk on July 16. The temporary pieces will be replaced with a new group of sculptures every two years. The entire project was funded by a generous $250,000 gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
All of this is in addition to the many wonderful public art pieces that already grace many of our city’s parks, campuses, and building (inside and out), So, keep your eyes open for these and other public art projects appearing all over the city in 2016. Yes, it’s an exciting time for public art in Decatur indeed.