Top 5 sculptures in C-U? Here are Kacich's picks

Top 5 sculptures in C-U? Here are Kacich's picks

Thursday, just two weeks and a day after Alma came home looking more gorgeous than ever, Champaign-Urbana unveiled its latest must-photograph landmark. With a bronze Roger Ebert getting two emphatic thumbs up from film festival fans, we asked resident historian TOM KACICH to list his five favorite other sculptures in C-U.

"Prayer for Rain"

West Side Park, Champaign

Created by Edward Kemeys, who is best known for his work of the two large lions that flank the entrance to the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. "Prayer for Rain," which was installed in 1899, features an American Indian, arms outstretched, appealing for rain. At his side are a panther and a deer, also seeking relief for the parched earth.

"Lincoln the Lawyer"

Carle Park, Urbana

Created by Lorado Taft, it features a young Abraham Lincoln, as he would have appeared as he rode the judicial circuit that included Springfield, Bloomington and Urbana. It originally was placed in downtown Urbana, in 1927, at a small plot adjacent to the Urbana-Lincoln Hotel. That was close to the site of Pennsylvania House, where Lincoln would stay and where he once held a legendary footrace. But the statue soon was moved to Carle Park, across from Urbana High School.

"The Blind"

Krannert Art Museum

University of Illinois

I loved taking children and grandchildren to see this Taft piece because to me it shows how we can learn from even the youngest among us. In it, a small child is carried among a group of blind people. The child, who has sight, guides the adults through the danger. Sentimental? Yes. Optimistic? Yes. I liked it anyway.

"Alma Mater"

Wright and Green streets

University of Illinois

Probably the most famous work in Champaign-Urbana, this Taft masterpiece was dedicated in 1929, 50 years after the sculptor graduated from the UI. It features the mother, a symbol of the university, with two attendants on each side, representing Learning and Labor. For much of its 85 years, Alma Mater was located south of the UI Auditorium. But it was moved in 1962, much to the dismay of students — including the editors of the Daily Illini, who said the new location commercialized the piece.


Meadowbrook Park, Urbana

This sleek, black piece from Larry Young represents two figures, headless, in a sensual dance. Look at it from a different vantage point and the sweep and angles give it a different perspective each time.


A long-gone statue that once sat at the triangular corner of Springfield Avenue and Main Street in Urbana. It was given to the then-proudly dry Urbana around 1907 by the Womens Christian Temperance Union, and featured what was supposed to represent an enlightened woman guiding Urbana away from alcohol. There was a drinking fountain at the statue, including one for horses. The statue, which stood in front of the Flatiron Building, was removed about 15 years later.

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Topics (1):Art

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Local Yocal wrote on April 25, 2014 at 10:04 am
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No right or wrong answers to this, though one has to be somewhat concerned that the few tax dollars thrown at the recent sculpture loans and acquisitions don't support local artists for commissions. Most of the new plops are from out-of-town artists. (Kinda' similar to most of the developers and construction firms nowadays.)

Other possibilities: Bench 9, by Barry Hehemann near the Urbana Library.

The little urchins sawing the light post and sweeping the giant pennies in front of the Krannert Museum by the world renowned Tom Otterness

One that will grow on you, if you imagine giant wads of Play Dough, are the initially hideous fluorescent monster wads in front of the recent Genome building near the Morrow Plots.

Cecelia Allen's small library piece near the Urbana Library bus stop and Tod Frahm's tortoise and hare piece at the entry.

Good call on The Blind and Tango.

I have to say that there are many other sculptures around town that would be strengthened if most of them were collected into one area and converted to service a putt-putt golf course.

Esteve wrote on April 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Statues come to mean a lot when you've been near them or walked past them for decades. For me, Lincoln the Lawyer went from being "a nice statue" to being an event in my life, if that makes sense.