Flossmoor officials and residents of the Ballantrae neighborhood mingle in the shadow of "Paradise" by the late Hubert Phipps after a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 31 to mark the installation of the sculpture in Ballantrae Park, 1404 Lanark Ave. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
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Ballantrae residents welcome new sculpture to park

Flossmoor Public Art Commission Vice Chair Jeff Stevenson, center, takes the first snip of the ribbon to mark the installation of “Paradise” in Ballantrae Park. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Ballantrae residents gathered at their neighborhood park with village officials and members of the Flossmoor Public Art Commission to mark the addition of a new sculpture, “Paradise,” a cast bronze sculpture by the late Hubert Phipps.

Phillipa Leon-Thompson, chair of the village’s Community Relations Commission, served as master of ceremonies.

“The purpose of tonight is to recognize art,” she said. “Art comes in all different ways and all different forms. And so when you came in, you saw some art. The children said welcome to paradise. That was their version of art.”

She referred to an elaborate message chalked on the park sidewalk by Saniah Wilson, Bryson McClendon and Kaitlyn Turner.

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Leon-Thompson invited those gathered at the event to think about how they interpret “Paradise,” with its monumental shape and dark color.

“Like beauty, (art) is in the eye of the beholder, how you interpret what you see,” she said. “When I look at ‘Paradise,’ I see two tails of whales, strong, powerful, yet graceful and stunning.”

Kaitlyn Turner puts finishing touches on a chalk art piece welcoming the new sculpture. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Public Art Commission Vice Chair Jeff Stevenson told how the sculpture came to Flossmoor. He is the curator of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park at Governors State University and said Phipps had inquired whether “Paradise” might find a home at GSU.

Stevenson said it wasn’t a good fit with the exhibit plan there, but he took the opportunity to suggest Phipps consider Flossmoor. That started the conversation that ultimately resulted in the installation in Ballantrae Park.

The sculpture originally was planned to be part of the village’s rotational collection, which typically hosts sculptures for a few years before they are moved to another site. The plan was to place it in Leavitt Park.

The process of acquiring the piece was complicated by Phipps’ sudden death last year in an accident. Leon-Thompson credited Flossmoor Assistant Village Manager Jonathan Bogue with keeping conversation going with Phipps’ family after giving them time to grieve.

The artist’s estate eventually offered the sculpture to the village as a permanent part of its collection.

Placing it in Ballantrae Park was not the Public Art Commission’s first choice, however. At the Feb. 19 village board meeting, Trustee George Lofton, a Ballantrae resident, suggested installing “Paradise” in the neighborhood park, and the rest of the board agreed, voting unanimously to accept it in the village’s permanent collection and to install it in Ballantrae Park.

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