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CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign City Council is moving forward with an honorary street sign for renowned artist Harry Breen, who died in January.

The council directed staff Tuesday to prepare a resolution that would designate West Clark Street between Prairie and Elm streets as Honorary Harry Breen Way.

“He became somewhat of a mentor to me,” his friend, Allen Wehrmann, said at the meeting. “And although I’m in a different medium in photography, his work in the world of art carries through to a wide number of people.”

The honorary street would be in front of Holy Cross Catholic Church, where Breen helped renovate the interior in 1983.

A University of Illinois professor from 1959 to 1985, Breen was known for his landscape paintings and ceramic animal sculptures.

“His art celebrates the prairie that surrounds us,” Wehrmann said.

His works are in collections around the country and locally are on display at the home of the University of Illinois president, the Chapel of Saint Thomas More, OSF Medical Center, the Meyer Capel Law Office, Busey Bank and Kranner Center for the Performing Arts.

He and his wife, Diane, who has since passed, received medals from Pope John Paul II in 1993 and later presented the pope with one of his paintings.

After Holy Cross, Breen designed the renovations for seven more churches, including two cathedrals.

Breen died Jan. 2 at age 90 due to complications from COVID-19, according to his obituary.

If the honorary street designation is approved at a future city council meeting, it would be the second such designation this year, after the Black Lives Matter honorary street was approved for the stretch of Chester Street in front of the City Building.

The city allows up to four honorary street designations per year, and they last for 10 years.


Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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