Take a walk, take in some Naperville art

Susan_Carlman_01

Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer
Sun Publications 2009-02-09
Susan_Carlman_01 Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer Sun Publications 2009-02-09

Isn’t it time for a little cultural enrichment?

Let’s face it: we’ve been holed up, bullied by the elements into self-imposed exile, for months. Even this week, when spring has poked its head out in such a manner as to suggest it might actually mean it, it has still been a struggle to fathom that we can safely go out without the hat, gloves, boots and heavy woolen layers that have been virtually our second skin for pretty much as long as we can remember.

But guess what? You can come out now. At least I think so.

Yes, I realize freakish weather has become rather commonplace and we could easily see another blizzard between now and the summer solstice. But as the birds sing outside the open window and the mercury nudges the mid-80s, it feels like a safe bet to claim boldly that The Winter That Was is finally behind us.

I suggest you mark the occasion by putting on your patron-of-the-arts hat (it doesn’t even need to be the one with the woolen ear flaps — hooray!). And then go see all the masterpieces there are to be found, right around the corner.

You might know about this already, since it’s been around for a year or two, but a rather cool and high-tech touch is part of the Century Walk collection of public art in downtown Naperville. It’s focused on those odd-looking little boxes filled with abstract configurations of black and white squares.

It’s true: you can tour the full collection of public art, all 45 pieces of it, using the Quick Response Code Reader app that’s right there on your phone. I gave it a try, and it’s pretty fun.

Take this self-guided tour, and you’ll learn about how Emanual Martinez had an impoverished childhood before he became an artist with multiple works hanging in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He created “Be the Best That You Can Be,” the sculpture of 1936 Naperville High School basketball standout Billy Scherer in mid-free throw that’s installed on the campus of Billy’s alma mater, which we now call Naperville Central.

You’ll also find out the story behind another Martinez artwork, “A Lifetime Together,” those two little figures perched on a bench on Main Street just south of Jackson Avenue. They represent Jane Latshaw, a great-great niece of city founder Joe Naper, and Billy Scherer as little kids who attended Ellsworth School together. They were kind of sweet on each other even then, years before they married and stayed together for 60 years.

You also will get the details of the mural titled “The Printed Word,” whose creator Timm Etters got into some trouble for his early graffiti handiwork before he began making legit art.

“Note the peeled corners of the work, which symbolize turning the pages on the present day and taking a peek into the future,” the tour narrator instructs.

One of the first pieces in the Century Walk collection, the 1996 mural traces the city’s pioneering newspaper publishers. Among them was Harold Moser, who founded The Sun before becoming a builder and hiring the splendid editor Harold White. That Harold bought the paper in 1936 and published this paper side by side with his wife, Eva. The rest, I like to think, is history.

And that’s just three of the stunning pieces on the Century Walk tour, each of which has a story to tell. Who knew your smart phone harbored a free ticket to wholesale art appreciation?

There’s an interactive map that can be used to help plan your artsy stroll: goo.gl/maps/66qOS. Also available through your phone is the Century Walk’s mobile website, which is at m.centurywalk.org.

One last thing: remember to bring the sunscreen. And the snow boots.

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