Exploring Homestate Illinois through Public Art
This year, I did not plan any major vacation. However, at some point in the beginning of this year, I decided to explore my backyard – my home state of Illinois – also known as the Land of Lincoln, and the Prairie State. Up till last year, whenever I had free time, I would head to downtown Chicago, which effectively had become my default destination. Exploring Illinois opened up a entire new world for me.
– I was exploring places just on the outskirts of the city of Chicago that are not-so-much-on-the-tourist-map.
– In all my tours, I used a piece Public Art as my lead destination, and from there I decided what to see and where to go.
Some Places that I toured this year:
Tri-cities Illinois: St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia: These are all western suburbs similar in size and socio-economic conditions. I have heard about twin cities, but tri-cities are interesting, and they really are very similar.
ST. CHARLES, IL: The first time I visited St. Charles I was struck by it’s beauty. I felt like someone made made a model city and infused life into it! I reached there by 6:30 in the morning. It was a gorgeous summer morning, with deep blue sky, roaring Fox River flowing in front of me, and gentle cool summer breeze blowing, that proximity to a large waterfront brings. I sat by the river and absorbed some of its beauty, and then walked alongside the river. Love St. Charles Riverwalk!
GENEVA, IL: Compared to other places, Geneva doesnt seem to have much of Public Art. I had heard so much about Geneva, but the town didnt impress me much.
BATAVIA, IL: Of all the neighboring towns I explored this summer, Batavia impressed me the most! What took me to Batavia was this sculpture, “Self Made Man” by Bobbie Carlyle. That opened doors to so much more. While there, I noticed that the city was dotted with windmills. That made me very curious. What followed was multiple trips to Batavia! Batavia has always been a manufacting town – dairy products, wagons, windmills, construction, and energy! One of the highlights was seeing two installations in Batavia: “Spintronic” by Nicole Beck, and “Fractal Cluster” by Bruce White.Biggest highlight was a tour of the city with Jeff Schielke, the Mayor of Batavia.
ELGIN & AURORA: The tri-cities region that is situated between two large cities of Elgin in north and Aurora in south. Both these cities are characterized by large casinos: Grand Victoria in Elgin, and Hollywood Casino in Aurora..
All these 5 cities – St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, Elgin and Aurora – are on the Fox River. I saw all these places, except Aurora, which I plan to cover in a few days.
Then I took day trip to two cities on Rock River: Rockford and Oregon.
ROCKFORD, IL: was the second leading center of furniture manufacturing in the nation. Its decline, emblematic of other cities in the Rust Belt, led to economic diversification into automotive, aerospace, and healthcare industries, as well as the undertaking of various tourism and downtown revitalization efforts. I did see the Public Art initiative to revitalize the area: The “Sculpture Stroll” in downtown Rockford featuring works by two New York based artists: Boaz Vaadia and Hans Van de Bovenkamp.
OREGON, IL: This place is associated with one on my fav artists Lorado Taft, as he and his friends had established Eagle’s Nest Art Colony there. One of the highlights of this year for me was the private tour of the Art Colony.
ROUTE 66, IL: Joliet, Wilmington, and Braidwood.
Route 66 is the Main Street of America or the Mother Road. It was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. It originally ran from Chicago, to Santa Monica, California. US 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985, after it had been replaced in its entirety by segments of the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road have been designated a National Scenic Byway of the name “Historic Route 66″, which is returning to some maps. Made three stops on Route 66: Braidwood, Wilmington, and Joliet.
– A tour with the Mayor of Batavia, the biggest highlight of the year!
– Installation of “Spintronic” by Nicole Beck, and “Fractal Custers” by Bruce White, on Wilson Street Donovan Bridge.
Batavia anyways has become one of my fav towns.
– I was also struck by the beauty of St. Charles Riverwalk.
– Private tour of Eagle’s Nest Art Colony in Oregon, IL.
Here are few images from my various trips..
2017: Exploring home state Illinois through Public Art
Year 2017 has been about exploring cities along two mainrivers, Fox River and Rock River.
Along the Fox River: Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva, and Batavia. Plan to see Aurora before the year ends.
Along the Rock River: Rockford and Oregon.
On the Route 66: Joliet, Wilmington and Braidwood.
The idea was to see new places, and photo-document their outdoor Public Art, which I enjoy. But art is a reflection of time, place and people. I learned so much about history and culture of these cities I toured. These places have their own distinguishing traits, historical events, cultural characteristics, local folklore, their own aspirations and problems. These get reflected in Art! And I loved meeting with people with midwestern values – kind, friendly people, and proud of their communities. I made some new friends along the way..
ST. CHARLES, Illinois. / Pride of the Fox.
St. Charles is part of a tri-city area along with Geneva and Batavia, all western suburbs of similar size and relative socioeconomic condition.
The official city slogan is Pride of the Fox, after the Fox River that runs through the center of town.
St Charles was the location of the Native American community for the chief of the Pottawatomie that inhabited the area. A city park overlooking the river was dedicated to this Native American past. After the Black Hawk War in 1832, the entire area of the Fox Valley was opened to American settlemen. St. Charles became incorporated as a city in 1839 and reincorporated October 17, 1874.
Saint Charles is also home to the Arcada theatre, a notable attraction within the Fox River valley. Downtown St. Charles was named one of the region’s “Top 10″ by the Chicago Tribune for fine dining, arts and entertainment, recreational opportunities, unique shopping, and a lively nighttime personality.Family Circle magazine named St. Charles #1 in its 2011 Annual Survey of Best Towns and Cities for families. The St. Charles Public Library is nationally ranked among the best libraries in the U.S. and has earned a “three star” rating in the 2010 Library Journal Index.
My trips to St. Charles.
I felt like someone made made a model city and infused life into it!
The first time I visited St. Charles I was in awe with it’s beauty. I was there by 6:30 in the morning. It was a gorgeous summer morning, with deep blue sky, roaring Fox River flowing in front of me, and gentle cool summer breeze blowing, that proximity to a large waterfront brings. I felt like someone made made a model city and infused life into it! The fact that it was early early morning also contributed into making that impressive first impression! I saw a beautiful river running through the center of the city, on the east bank was Guy Bellaver’s abstract scupture “Reflections,” and on the west bank was Landmark Hotel Baker. I sat by the river, absorbing its beauty for some time. Then I walked along the Riverwalk to see statue of Ekwabet [also by Guy Bellaver], Fox Cycle [by Francis Joseph Gagnepain IV] and Wind Emotions [by Lyman Whitaker]. Each of these are remarkable! Also explored the Mt. St. Mary Sculpture Park. I took a few trips, and have been able to photo document some of what I saw.
St Charles attractions.. click here..
Geneva is part of a tri-city area, located between St. Charles and Batavia.
Geneva was first settled in the 1830s on an important route from Chicago. It is probably named after Geneva, New York. Before the name Geneva was chosen, the names LaFox, Big Spring, and Herrington’s Ford were used. A courthouse and jail were among the first major worksin the city. Geneva was incorporated as a village in 1867. The village’s location on the Fox River provided the most economic opportunities. Early goods manufactured in Geneva included cheese, butter, milled grains, and packed meat. The connection of the railroad in 1853 provided increased demand for industry and by 1900, Appleton Manufacturing, Howell Foundry, Bennet Milling Co., and Pope Glucose Co. became major employers.. Geneva was particularly noted for its flux of Swedish immigrants, who comprised half of the population by 1900.
Geneva is a popular tourist destination with its location along the Fox River and numerous shops and restaurants. There is an extensive bike trail system in Geneva including portions of the Fox River Trail and the Illinois Prairie Path. Geneva has an active historical society, the Geneva History Center, located in downtown Geneva. Other famous attraction is the Fabyan Windmill, an old Dutch windmill dating back to the 1850s. In 2013 it was nominated by Bloomberg Business Week as the best place to raise a kid in Illinois.
My Trips to Geneva.
What took me to Geneva was the sculptural water-fountain “When It Rains, It Pours” by Richard “Miles” Metzger [click here..]. I also saw a very interesting sculpture “Nick Bottom” by Ray Kobald at Geneva Public Library [click here..]. However when it comes to Public Art, Geneva did not make it for me. Although the Dutch Windmill at Fabyan Forest Preserve, Geneva, is worth a day trip!
FABYAN FOREST PRESERVE, GENEVA, Illinois.
Day Trip: May 8, 2017.. on a beautiful Monday morning, I drove to Fabyan, to see the Dutch Windmill. Fabyan is located south of Geneva, on the banks of the Fox River. To my surprize I discovered that the place has many more attractions than the Windmill! There were Fabyan Japanese Garden, Fabyan Villa and also a 100 years old Fabyan Lighthouse! There were visitors fishing along its river shores, jogging or and biking along the trails. There was also a beautiful pedestrian river bridge. Later I found out that these natural and historic attractions has made Fabyan one heavily used forest preserve in the Kane County.
For more, Day Trip to Fabyan Forest Preserve.. click here..
Batavia is part of the Tri-City area, along with St. Charles and Geneva.
Batavia was first settled in 1833 by Christopher Payne and his family. Originally called Big Woods for the wild growth throughout the settlement, the town was renamed by local judge and former Congressman Isaac Wilson in 1840 after his former home of Batavia, New York. Because Judge Wilson owned the majority of the town, he was given permission to rename the city. The city was incorporated on July 27, 1872.
In the late 19th century, Batavia was a major manufacturer of the Conestoga wagons used in the country’s westward expansion. Into the early 20th century, most of the windmill operated waterpumps in use throughout America’s farms were made at one of the three windmill manufacturing companies in Batavia. Many of the original limestone buildings that were part of these factories are still in use today as government and commercial offices and storefronts. The Campana Factory was built in 1936 to manufacture cosmetics for The Campana Company, most notably Italian Balm, the nation’s best-selling hand lotion at the time. After the death of her husband, Mary Todd Lincoln was an involuntary resident of the Batavia Institute on May 20, 1875. Mrs. Lincoln was released four months later on September 11, 1875. Aldi, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Aldi, has its headquarters in Batavia. Fermilab is located just outside the town borders and serves as employment for many of the town’s residents.
My Trips to Batavia.
Of all the neighboring towns I explored this summer, Batavia impressed me the most! What took me to Batavia was this sculpture, “Self Made Man” by Bobbie K. Carlyle. That opened doors to so much more. While there, I noticed that the city was dotted with windmills. That made me very curious. What followed was multiple trips to Batavia! I learned a lot but a lot remains to be explored. Batavia has always been a manufacting town – dairy products, wagons, windmills, construction, and energy!
It was the windmills of Batavia, that piqued my curiosity the most! In the 1900s Batavia earned the nickname “Windmill Capital of the World,” with six companies manufacturing windmills. These were used to grind grain, pump water, chop wood, and could handle other similar tasks. Large windmills were used to draw water into the huge tower tanks and ponds that fed steam locomotive. The steam locomotives replaced the horse and wagon as the preferred method of quickly transporting people, supplies and messages across long distances. So windmills allowed train lines to spread across the nation, pumping water needed to fuel westward travel by steam. As Batavia Windmill enthusiast Bob Popeck put it.. “Many helped expand the railroad industry, in its role in building the western part of the United States, by supplying watering stations every 80 to 100 miles for the steam engines travelling across our great country.” If it interests you, read Batavia’s Windmill Heritage click here.
Batavia also helped build Chicago after the the Great Fire of 1871. Batavia limestone was used in construction of many buildings. Also, Batavia supplied bread and dairy products to the fast growing city of Chicago.
The biggest highlights of my trips was the tour of the town with Mayor Jeff Schielke. Then there was installation of sculpture “Spintronic” by my dear friend Nicole Beck..click here.. Also getting to know Bill McGrath, who worked as Batavia City adminstrator [retired 2016], and is also a metal sculptor.
There is so much more.. Some opf which I have been able to write about..
Batavia attractions.. click here..
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Black Hawk Indian War of 1832 led to the expulsion of the Native Americans, and set the stage for the founding of Elgin.
Early Elgin achieved fame for the butter and dairy goods it sold to the city of Chicago. Gail Borden established a condensed milk factory here in 1866, and the local library was named in his honor. The dairy industry became less important with the arrival of the Elgin Watch Company. The watch factory employed three generations of Elginites from the late 19th to the mid 20th century, when it was the largest producer of fine watches in the United States. The factory ceased production in 1965 and was torn down in the summer of 1966. Today, the clocks at Chicago’s Union Station still bear the Elgin name. In the 1990s, Elgin became one of the few cities in northern Illinois to host a riverboat casino. The Grand Victoria Casino initially generated controversy, but went on to be a significant source of income for the city. In the recent years, more casinos have opened in the area and the Grand Victoria Casino had seen attendance and revenue decline.
Elgin won the National Civic League’s prestigious All-America City Award in 2002.
My Trip: The Pioneer Memorial Monument by Trygve Rovelstad took me to Elgin. Also saw the Walton Island Park in Elgin, Illinois.
The land Oregon, Illinois was founded on was previously held by the Potawatomi and Winnebago Indian tribes. Settlers discovered that the area contained a large number of Indian mounds, most 10 to 12 feet in diameter. Ogle County was a New England settlement. The original founders of Oregon and Rochelle consisted entirely of settlers from New England. These people were “Yankees”, that is to say they were descended from the English Puritans who settled New England in the 1600s. They were part of a wave of New England farmers who headed west into what was then the wilds of the Northwest Territory during the early 1800s. Most of them arrived as a result of the completion of the Erie Canal.
In 1898, sculptor Lorado Taft founded the Eagle’s Nest Art Colony on a bluff overlooking the Rock River, north of Oregon. Taft and his art colony began to exert an influence on the city of Oregon and its culture. The artists who gathered during the summer at Eagle’s Nest would leave a mark on the city below them. One result of the colony’s location near Oregon was the inclusion of a second story art gallery in the Oregon Public Library when it was built in 1908. Art colony members were required to contribute to the local culture by giving art shows, lectures and plays. In 1904, Taft created The Blind and then began focusing on more monumental works. Between 1908-11, on a site just north of the city, Taft erected a 50-foot tall statue he had designed and originally named The Eternal Indian. Located on a bluff overlooking the Rock River valley, the sculpture is now known as the Black Hawk Statue, named after Black Hawk, a chief of the Sauk Indian tribe that once inhabited the area. Several other Taft works are located in and around Oregon, including The Soldiers’ Monument on the courthouse lawn.
Rockford is the third largest city in the U.S. state of Illinois, the 171st most populous city in the United States, the largest city in Illinois outside of the Chicago metropolitan area.
Settled between 1834 and 1835, Rockford was strategically positioned between Chicago and Galena and thus became suitable for industrial development. Rockford was notable for its output of heavy machinery and tools. By the twentieth century, it was the second leading center of furniture manufacturing in the nation. Its decline, emblematic of other cities in the Rust Belt, led to economic diversification into automotive, aerospace, and healthcare industries, as well as the undertaking of various tourism and downtown revitalization efforts.
Referred to as the Forest City, Rockford is known for various venues of cultural or historical significance, including Anderson Japanese Gardens, Klehm Arboretum, Tinker Swiss Cottage, the BMO Harris Bank Center, the Coronado Theatre, the Laurent House, and the Burpee Museum of Natural History.
I began my explore IL with Rockford. I have been to Rockford earlier, and knew its easy to drive there. earlier I have explored Rockford Riverwalk, alonf Rock River. There are beautiful large scale public artwork and Nichoilas Conservatory. This year I wanted to see downtown Rockford.Also saw Peace Plaza and Guernsy Cow. There were three major stops: Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza, Lockwood Park / Gertrude the Guernsey Cow, and Sculpture Stroll [2015-2017] in Downtown Rockford.
For more, Day trip to Rockford.. click here..
U.S. Route 66 Also known as US 66 or Route 66
Route 66 is the Main Street of America or as mis called the Mother Road. It was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. US 66 was established on November 11, 1926, with road signs erected the following year. The highway became one of the most famous roads in the United States.
Route 66 originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles.
US 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985, after it had been replaced in its entirety by segments of the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway of the name “Historic Route 66″, which is returning to some maps. Several states have adopted significant bypassed sections of the former US 66 into the state road network as State Route 66.
Route 66 was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66″ and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s.
A Day Trip on Route 66.. click here..
My Vacations Photo Gallery.. click here..
Vacation: USA / Illinois.. click here..
Vacation: USA.. click here..
Vacation: USA.. click here..
Vacation: UK.. click here..
Vacation: India.. click here..
UNESCO World Heritage Site.. click here..
Home: Public Art in Chicago.. .. click here..