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Elmhurst artists, students build public art block by block

Published: Monday, July 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided)
This City Centre Block serves as a mobile art gallery in downtown Elmhurst. Artwork by York High School students cover its surface with colorful Andy Warhol-like images of animals.

ELMHURST – In December, visitors to downtown Elmhurst may have caught a glimpse of giant holiday packages, but this summer, City Centre patrons will notice 14 new block-shaped art pieces.

“We really wanted to take more of a pop art concept to these,” said Julie La Monica, Elmhurst City Centre’s creative director.

Local area artists Rachel Lechocki, James Riggs, Karen Exiner, Jeune Winchester and Terri Gregory have designed six of the fiberglass “City Centre Blocks” in a modern pop art-inspired style. Traditionally, public art has taken the form of customized benches or more distinct figures such as cars or animals.

“The original public art for the city of Chicago were the cows,” La Monica said.

La Monica said she; Christy Sopko, director of events; Tom Paravola, executive director; and Sara Cox, graphic designer, wanted to take a different approach this year that still allowed for seating and visitors to interact with the pieces on a different level.

Inspired by the artwork her two children brought home from Hawthorne Elementary, La Monica thought of a unique idea for the other eight sculptures. They showcase highlights projects from Sandburg, Churchville and Bryan middle schools, as well as York High School, in an effort to engage young artists in the community.

Each artist, or group of student artists, made each sculpture dramatically different.

Jeune Winchester, artist and Bryan Middle School teacher, created two of the blocks using bright colors and simplified themes so the art is easy to see from a distance. Another artist mixed paint and poured it over the block. One block features high-resolution photos taken by student photographers during their seventh-grade outdoor education trip. One even nods at the Chicago cows and is covered in the spotted creatures.

More than a year ago, the Elmhurst City Centre team began organizing the project. Once they received the 14 fiberglass blocks they had ordered, artists used acrylic paints to create their masterpieces. Much of the student artwork previously had been created so the projects were scanned at a high resolution and printed on vinyl to be applied on the sculptures which will adorn the corners of downtown until late fall, when the holiday package pieces return.

The 3-D pieces reflect the Elmhurst City Centre logo, the Quad, which was designed to portray an aerial view of a city block. It also implies the concept of different elements co-existing, similar to how streets and sidewalks intersect, to create a cohesive whole.

“The heart of the downtown is very important,” said La Monica, who has lived in Elmhurst for 13 years.

She said her kids ask her to bring them to the City Centre all the time for everything from movies to restaurants to the summer Block to Block Parties with live music. She wants the blocks to supplement each person’s visit to the City Centre. La Monica said seeing a student jump off her bike to Instagram a picture of her artwork and couples sitting on the blocks sipping coffee define the project’s success.

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