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Flossmoor trustees approve new sculpture for Ballantrae Park

Flossmoor trustees accepted a gift sculpture into the village’s permanent collection and opted to place it in Ballantrae Park, fulfilling a request from Ballantrae neighborhood residents. 

“Paradise” by the late Hubert Phipps is slated to be installed at Ballantrae Park in Flossmoor. (Provided photo)

Residents have been lobbying for new artwork in the park since two sculptures by artist Terry Karpowicz, “Mount” and “Totem,” were removed. The two pieces were part of the village’s rotating collection, which places sculptures typically for three-year periods. “Mount” was approved by the board in December 2019, and “Totem” was approved in March 2020. Both were removed after their terms expired.

Before Public Art Commission Chair Nancy Burrows gave her presentation, former Trustee James Wilder spoke, representing a group of Ballantrae residents in the audience. 

Wilder reminded the board that he was a trustee when the village adopted principles of diversity and inclusion in its 2018 strategic plan. Ballantrae is a predominantly Black neighborhood.

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“Tonight, I along with several Ballantrae residents, are here requesting your consideration and approval of the placement of a sculpture in Ballantrae Park,” he said. “We believe that Ballantrae park represents an ideal space for showcasing artwork that aligns with the principals of equity, diversity, inclusion and community engagement. 

“We are confident that this approval would not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the park but also reinforce the commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment.”

Burrows provided an explanation of how the new sculpture, “Paradise” by Hubert Phipps, became available as a permanent part of the village’s collection. The piece was approved as a part of the rotating collection in June 2023, she said, but Phipps died before the agreement could be completed.

During subsequent discussions, a Phipps representative said the piece was no longer available as part of a rotation but offered to donate it to the village. Phipps’ estate will cover shipping and installation costs, too, Burrows said.

“Paradise” is a two-piece bronze sculpture that weighs more than 1.5 tons. One piece is 9 feet tall and 7.5 feet long. The other piece is 7 feet tall and 3.75 feet long. The piece has an estimated value of at least $150,000, Burrows said.  

She said the Public Art Commission took the views of Ballantrae residents seriously but did not consider the park to be the best location for “Paradise,” but she said the commission would respect the decision of the board.

She outlined three options for the board to consider.

  • Continue to seek a sculpture for Ballantrae Park that would be a good fit for the space. 
  • Place “Paradise” at Ballantrae Park temporarily and move it when a better piece for the location becomes available. She noted that this option would involve some costs in building a new pad for the sculpture when it moves and the cost of moving the heavy pieces.
  • Temporarily place the three untitled sculptures planned for the southeast corner of Flossmoor Park at Ballantrae until a more appropriate piece becomes available.

Board members all expressed support for accepting the donation and for option two for placing it.

Trustees George Lofton and Rosalind Mustafa, who both previously advocated for placement of a sculpture in Ballantrae Park were strongly in favor of placing “Paradise” there permanently, although Mustafa acknowledged future conditions might make that impractical.

The board also approved two resolution authorizing a license agreements with other local government agencies for placement of sculptures.

One agreement is with Flossmoor School District 161 to place “Kinetic Vision” at Heather Hill School. The sculpture by Homewood-Flossmoor art students has been located at the south entrance to Flossmoor Public Library for several years.

A new H-F art student project will replace “Kinetic Vision” at the library later this year.

The other agreement is with Homewood-Flossmoor Park District to place three narrow vertical sculptures, all untitled, at the southeast corner of Flossmoor Park.

The board approved those placements at its Dec. 18, 2023, meeting.

There was also some discussion about the sculpture acquisition and placement process generally. Prior to Burrows’ presentation, Jackie Riffice addressed the board with concerns about the art commission’s transparency and its practice of concentrating sculpture placement in or near the village center.

“As far as I can tell, the criteria are not published and the process does not seem transparent to me,” Riffice said. “The reason I want to better understand this is that Flossmoor has 17 neighborhoods. I wonder why I don’t see artwork as I bike … outside our village center.”

The village has a few sculptures in other locations — including Flossmoor Park, Sterling Avenue, Carroll Parkway and Flossmoor Hills School, but Burrows acknowledged that Leavitt Park just west of downtown is considered the prime location for art.

She said placing sculptures in all 17 neighborhoods would be virtually impossible because of the expense.

Trustees praised the commission for its work in building the village’s sculpture collection, but Mustafa also offered support for Riffice’s concerns and said that even if art can’t be placed in all neighborhoods, she would encourage some consideration for broader distribution.

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