URBANA — Parks officials have seemingly found the ideal location for an aluminum sculpture called "Water."
The 11-foot-tall, 600-pound piece by Chicago artist Michael Young was installed late last month between the new Crystal Lake Park Aquatic Center and the Anita Purves Nature Center, about 100 yards from the Saline Branch, which flows through the park.
"The concept is really neat. It's a fish in one view, but there are other views where it looks more vertical and it looks like aquatic grasses. So it celebrates flora and fauna in an aquatic environment, which is perfect there between the pool and the nature center," said Tim Bartlett, the Urbana Park District's associate director. "We figured we couldn't have picked a better piece for that location."
The sculpture, created in 2008, is meant "to represent the relationship of flora and fauna and the life-giving water that we all need," Young said in a statement.
A donor paid to have the piece temporarily installed at the park.
"Our stipend (to the artist) is $2,000. We pay them $1,500 upfront when the sculpture comes to Urbana and we pay the remaining $500 when the sculpture leaves Urbana," Bartlett said. "But we would love it if other people stepped up and helped to keep it there. It could be done on an annual loan. Or if it really captivates, it would really be great if people stepped up and got together and maybe did a donation to acquire it as a permanent piece."
"Water" is valued at $50,000, Bartlett said.
"Obviously, if we had a serious donor, we could probably negotiate a price arrangement with the artists. They're always interested in selling their art," he said.
About one-third of the 23 pieces at the park district's Wandell Sculpture Garden at Meadowbrook Park in south Urbana are paid for and owned by the district, Bartlett said. Most, though, are at the park on a loan program.
Bartlett said he saw a Young piece at this summer's Chicago Lakefront Sculpture Exhibition and asked if it was available to be displayed in Urbana.
"He said it wasn't, but that he had another piece coming back from a show in Wisconsin. He sent me a picture and I immediately told him that we were interested," Bartlett said. "We were saving that location (near the aquatic center) for something. It could have been a flower bed or something, but this is just perfect."
Unfortunately, Bartlett said, the piece was installed on Sept. 30, long after the outdoor pools had closed for the summer.
"That would have been more fun and more interesting. But it will be fun for next year," he said. "And it serves the nature center too. It really is an environmental piece."
Eventually, Bartlett said, he hopes to have a major piece of art in every Urbana park.