Artistic Scott Park 'inhabitants' apparently discarded

Artistic Scott Park 'inhabitants' apparently discarded

CHAMPAIGN – For more than 30 years, one family spent their days and nights enjoying Scott Park through hot summers and unbearable cold, but they have not been back since the park was torn up two years ago for a renovation.

It was the Gallo family, or at least a representation of them. Their concrete silhouettes were crafted by their patriarch, Frank Gallo, a well-known artist from Urbana.

"When they remodeled the park, they just disappeared, and people started asking me about it, and I didn't know what to tell them," Gallo said.

His then-wife Mary frequently drove past the five sculptures – a father, a mother, two children and a family friend – and looked at a moment frozen in time: Her daughter, bent over on a knee, playing near the Boneyard Creek.

"It was typical of her," said Mary Gallo, who wrote a letter to the editor questioning the whereabouts of the sculptures in the Jan. 9 issue of The News-Gazette, published under her maiden name Carabin.

It is not entirely clear what happened to the sculptures. Laura Auteberry, marketing and development director for the park district, said they have been thrown away. Stark Excavating, whose workers would have been the ones to put the statues in the Dumpster under the district's direction, did not return messages seeking comment this week.

The sculptures were falling apart when Stark began work on the park renovation in 2008, Auteberry said, and the park district called the artist to ask if he wanted them back. Auteberry said he indicated at the time that he did not, and as they disintegrated, they probably were not of any value.

So the contractor was told to put them in the garbage.

"God forbid it was just thrown away," said Mary Gallo.

But Frank Gallo said he was not called by the park district, and if he had been, he would have wanted them back.

"I feel kind of bad that the (park district) would have such little regard for the work that I did," Frank Gallo said.

The park district was just following policy, officials said. There are rules directing the district on how to dispose of items that are no longer needed.

For example, when the park district in 2008 wanted to get rid of a 1995 Pontiac Grand Am with more than 98,000 miles, officials traded it in for a new vehicle. When the district had no more use for a 16-year-old "Showmobile," a trailer that converts into a portable stage, it was sold to the highest bidder on eBay.

Both of those decisions required approval by the park board, but only because the Grand Am and the Showmobile still had monetary value.

Auteberry said the artist – in the phone call with the park district – indicated the sculptures in Scott Park no longer had a financial value. An item that the district deems will not bring profit at sale are disposed of. Those items, as was the case with the statues, are thrown away without park board approval.

But Mary Gallo said they still had sentimental value. Maybe they could have been repaired or moved to a different park were there was less chance for vandalism, she suggested. Or, if Frank Gallo did not want them, they could have been given to a different family member, she said.

"I thought it had a little more merit than that," she said.

Frank Gallo said he was taken aback by the news that the statues may be in a landfill.

"It just seems kind of callous, that's all," he said. "I was somewhat offended."

Bobbie Herakovich, the executive director of the park district, said officials in 1976 planned for the inevitable disposal of the public art. An agreement to place the statues in Scott Park stated that, if they fell apart, the park district would have to remove them.

Everybody understood the statues would not last forever, and reading a line from that agreement, she said it was just a matter of letting "the concrete chips fall where they may."

But the artist is wondering where those concrete chips are falling.

"It's just amazing to me that this has created a kind of a mystery," Frank Gallo said.

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DEB wrote on January 23, 2011 at 9:01 am

It would be real nice to have some better description and validation of their condition. I bet the Gallo's would feel the same way. If truly crumbling and worthless, then I have little trouble with disposal (especially if they really did contact the artist, which I realize is in dispute). But if they were merely damaged but repairable, they may have had some value and could have been sold. Ebay and many other ways of selling merchandise are often free to list, so it wouldn't have hurt. Heck, if they could be easily repaired by an amateur and were affordable I'd have put them on the vacant lot I own and use as a large flower and vegetable garden. My neighbors always come to look at the flowers and I suspect some sculptures would make it ever more attractive.

jdmac44 wrote on January 23, 2011 at 10:01 am

This sounds about par for the course for the Champaign Park District. What their constituents think is a remote afterthought.

Gadfly295 wrote on January 23, 2011 at 11:01 am

WHO CARES? Ultimately, this is a stink being raised about $50 worth of plywood and some paint. I guarantee you the homeless alcoholics and juvenile delinquents who hang out in Scott Park aren't asking, "Hey, where did those fake people go?"

jdmac44 wrote on January 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Obviously you don't (though I'm not sure why you read the article...). But you're not everyone. (FYI they weren't plywood.) By your assessment I suppose they ought to do something useful with the land like make a landfill since no one worthwhile uses it for anything. While they're at it they ought to do away with those worthless people too, put them out of their misery. Thank you for opening our eyes.

ronaldo wrote on January 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I've seen a number of Gallo pieces and generally I like his work. These pieces, however, I found oddly creepy and never liked them in the first place. Ever take a walk through Scott Park after dark and your heart starts racing because you stumble up "someone" right in front of you? I'm glad they're gone.

adamb2000 wrote on January 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I agree, Ronaldo. I used to live right next to Scott Park, and would often walk by it (or sometimes through it) late at night. The statues definitely had a bit of creepiness to them, and at night they certainly felt like a safety hazard. I always thought that someone could be hiding behind one, or that they were just generally a bad thing to have in an unlit park after dark. They were also close enough to the sidewalk on the SE side that people just walking by and not through the park might think that someone was there.

cookie2000 wrote on January 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Does anyone know if they've put that ugly peacock on Neil St. in the dump yet?

cnfixwd wrote on January 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm
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If it was in your yard,if it had any monetary value or not and it was park district property. As any city affiliated dept. They would probably have you in civil court at least. So if there is some amount of sentimental value to the artist. he should ask for some sort repayment or recognition. I am not surprised though. It is just like every other governmental office it's getting "Socialized" We are just #'s & tax revenue, oh yes and the people who pay their check. Very concerned about present day values and government local,state,and federal.

susselsprout wrote on January 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm

It's not like they were marble or bronze. They were 30-plus-years-old concrete sculptures. They were crumbling, as old concrete tends to do. Their market value did not warrant fixing them, and there were at least a few people who were actually uncomfortable around them. I think the park district made the right call.