Reigning on the Parade
October 1, 2011 — Source: Naperville Magazine — Author: Hilary Decent
If Naperville didn’t exist, Norman Rockwell would have invented it. The city’s small town feel bursting with family values is a perfect homage to the artist’s work. Now both are coming together with the latest addition to the Century Walk, Naperville Loves a Parade. In true Naperville style, residents have been lining up to have their portraits added to the 125-foot mural between Talbots and Gap in downtown Naperville. Those who aren’t being immortalized are joining in, by taking their photos in front of the wall.
The project has been in the pipeline since 1998. Century Walk President Brand Bobosky says, “We were three quarters of the way to getting permission to use the wall when the project fell through, and we had to put it on hold. We were probably too new and the project was too big. Now we have 38 projects behind us. It will be the biggest in terms of drawing visitors because it’s public friendly. It’s a wonderful synergy of public art because the entire community is participating.”
The mural is a team project. All three artists, Dodie Mondero, Adela Vystejnova, and Marianne Lisson Kuhn, have other works on the Century Walk, but this is the first time they have worked together.
Mondero, the lead artist, is responsible for sketching out the overall outline. “What makes this so special is the size and the quality of what we are doing,” he says. “It’s a very unique project. It’s probably the best we have ever done. The fact that people can see the artists painting is fascinating.”
Vystejnova painted the mural on the opposite wall, Parade of the Century, last year. “I really enjoy painting faces and bodies,” she says. “I’ve never worked with anybody before; it’s a good thing I like working them!”
Lisson Kuhn, a fifth-generation Napervillian, is painting the buildings and sky from a scaffold that is anywhere from five-feet to 18-feet high. She even added an old fluted city lamppost, a memento she keeps in her yard. She said the hardest thing was painting on a rough surface. “This is fun, it’s very interactive, a lot of people pass by,” she says.
For those paying $1,000 per person, it’s a way to see themselves or their loved ones immortalized, as well as donating money to the non-profit Century Walk.
First in line was Steve Rubin, whose family owns the buildings the walls line. He provided photographs of his grandfather’s store and deceased relatives, his father Al, Uncle Norm, and aunts Lucille and Gish. The artists catapulted them into the modern day by dressing them in casual clothes as if they were watching a parade.
“It’s a nice way to remember them. When relatives come we bring them down here to show them,” he says.
Next to the Rubins stands Al’s friend, the late Jim Wehrli (who died in 1994) next to his wife Bettye, a Century Walk board member.
“The reason I wanted a picture of Jim there was because he was such a visionary about Naperville,” she says. “He knew Naperville would become a beautiful place. We never missed a parade. When I walk by, it’s like Jim is still alive.”
Naperville Loves a Parade FAQ
Q. Are you really painting the whole wall?
A. Yes, all the way.
Q. How long will it take to finish?
A. Two years or more.
Q. How do people get themselves painted on the wall?
A. Visit www.centurywalk.org.
Q. Are they famous or real people?
A. They are people from Naperville, many of importance.
Q. How long is the wall?
A. 126 feet long by 18 feet high.
Q. What kind of paint are you using?
A. High-quality exterior latex paint.
Q. Will the mural be sealed for protection?
A. Yes, it will be coated with a clear, durable, UV-protecting sealer.
Q. How many people will you paint or fit on the wall?
A. As many as possible.
Q. Who did the other wall?
A. Adela Vistejnova. It’s titled Parade of the Century.
Q. When did painting start on the mural?
A. The first week of April 2011. Painting will halt for the winter.