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Flossmoor Village Board approves changes to sculpture collection despite apprehension

Flossmoor is moving forward with the recommendation of its Public Art Commission to change the sculpture collection for 2022, despite some apprehension from village board members.

The village board voted 5-1 Monday, April 18, to approve the 2022 sculpture collection update. Trustee George Lofton cast the sole dissenting vote.

The biggest point of concern raised by the board was regarding the “Secret Garden” sculpture, currently next to the Flossmoor Public Library. The commission recommended moving it to Heather Hill Elementary School as part of a rotational plan, after interest was previously expressed in putting a sculpture there during prior discussions.

Following the meeting, Lofton said the “Secret Garden” move was the sticking point of the proposal for him.

“I am by no means an art critic, but I do appreciate art, and this sculpture by Mark Lundeen sends a clear message that the Flossmoor Public Library is a place for reading,” Lofton said. “Nevertheless, I truly believe that Heather Hill as well as other schools in Flossmoor would be ideal locations for our village’s art collection, especially those sculptures that would stimulate the inquisitive minds of young people and continue to promote art appreciation in our schools.”

“Secret Garden” is a permanent collection sculpture to be reinstalled at Heather Hill. Jeff Stevenson, vice chairperson of the art commission, said they talked to school officials about the possibility prior to the vote.

“We got a very favorable response,” Stevenson said.

Trustee Brian Driscoll said he appreciates the expertise of the art commission, but “Secret Garden” has been at the library as long as he can remember. He questioned the idea to move it.

“It’s part of the downtown,” he said. “It seems like I’m losing a friend.”

Mayor Michelle Nelson noted she, too, had some reservations about that piece of the plan. Trustee James Mitros initially expressed some concern, as well.

“That’s kind of a sentimental piece, because I think that’s the first piece we actually bought,” Mitros said. “I understand completely how moving things around stimulates it, makes it exciting, but … I’ll just miss it.”

Stevenson stressed that because “Secret Garden” is part of the permanent collection, the village can change its location after any length of time if the board does not like the move. The commission thought that because there are already other sculptures near the library and there was interest in the Heather Hill space, it was at least worth a try, Stevenson said.

“People don’t like change, and moving things that have become these landmarks, I understand that,” Stevenson said. “At the same time, relocating things reactivates and excites and brings new life to the sculpture.”

Mitros came around to the idea over the course of the discussion.

“I hate to lose that piece, because I like it right there, but I also like the thought of what they’re saying,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good to shake things up a little bit.”

Nelson asked if the board would want to table the “Secret Garden” element of the proposal for further discussion and move forward with the rest of the plan. Stevenson said that was a possibility.

But Trustee Rosalind Henderson Mustafa said she felt comfortable supporting the plan as-is, with the “Secret Garden” move being on a potentially temporary basis, especially knowing the idea was well received by the school. Trustee Joni Bradley-Scott said she appreciated the effort that went into the plan and likes the idea of reintroducing the art in another area of the community.

“I would love to see the art at Heather Hill,” Bradley-Scott said. “I could envision the kids taking pictures and that being a centerpiece for the school.”

Despite the “no” vote, Lofton added that he appreciates the work the art commission has done.

“The Flossmoor Arts Commission is doing an outstanding job not only in their ability to procure these magnificent works of art, but also with their commitment to expose our entire village to art,” he said.

The Public Art Commission’s written recommendation to the board noted it received new information since last presenting to the board its plan for a shuffle. That includes a Western Avenue traffic study being conducted by Flossmoor School District 161, which meant Western was no longer an option, with no installations being allowed there at this time. The commission noted it has had trouble reaching an artist, which has put the installation of two sculptures on hold.

The lease on Michael Grucza’s “Me and My Shadow” is up, and the sculpture will be leaving. Because of that change, the commission recommended moving Hilde DeBruyne’s “Reach for the Sky,” currently at Highlands Park, to that existing concrete pad in Leavitt Park. That leaves the previously approved relocation site of “Reach for the Sky” at Leavitt Park open to install “Land Jax,” which previously had been approved for Western Avenue.

Bruce Niemi’s “Coming Together” and Sam Spiczka “Orion” also are departing the collection this year. Jason Verbeek’s “Vertical Vegetation” and “Jacks” are to be installed as part of the rotational program at the south commuter lot and Leavitt Park, respectively.

Other business

  • The village board voted unanimously to approve its consent agenda. With it, trustees gave the green light to an ordinance that will see residential water rates rise from $11.48 to $12.48 per 1,000 gallons, and sewer rates from $3.77 to $4.06 per thousands gallons. The board discussed rationale for the change on April 4.
  • Nelson reappointed Fire Pension Board Member Carlo Gozzi to that post. Gozzi has been with the board since 2018, with a term ending April 2022, but the reappointment gives him three more years with the board. The village board voted unanimously to approve the reappointment.
  • The village board voted unanimously to support the National Wildlife Federation Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, which asks elected leaders to promote the restoration of monarch habitats in their communities. It includes 24 actions items for communities to implement to support the butterflies.

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