Champaign council approves agreement with art league

CHAMPAIGN – The city council on Tuesday night supported a six-year agreement with the privately run Public Art League to cooperate in placing sculptures in various locations around the city.

The action would remove the city-led Community Arts Group, which has undertaken few initiatives since its creation in 2003, and allow the private group to take the lead and a more "proactive" role in promoting public art.

"There's not a whole lot that the city needs to do to make this happen," said Brian Knox, the group's president. "We as an organization sponsor competition to be able to have entries and judge those entries and bring them to town and solicit private money to be able to lease them."

The Public Art League already is nearing an announcement of which sculptures will be brought to Champaign and placed in various locations in the near future. The group solicited 42 entries from all over the country earlier this year and presented photos and potential sites of some of the finalists Tuesday.

Knox said the goal of the project is to "make people live with art every day."

Council members said they were excited about the prospect of having more public art on display in the city.

"It ought to be thought-provoking and stimulate debate," council member Tom Bruno said. "It's fine with me if not everyone likes every piece."

Frequent visitors of downtown could see sculptures popping up on sidewalks, just outside the police department or at the Second Street Boneyard Creek basin.

The proposal "reminds me of the feel of Meadowbrook Park," council member Karen Foster said. "You enjoy just walking around and looking at all of the different ones and never get tired of it."

The city council would have the final approval of those sculpture placements if they are on city property. Each placement would also come with an installation and maintenance plan.

Knox said the group would seek sponsors to help fund each sculpture. That sponsor would have its name displayed on a plaque near the art piece.

"If this makes our community just a little bit more interesting, the message that sends to visitors is a good one," Bruno said.

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