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“Art in Public Places” The Value of Art in Our Town

Art. Culture. What do they matter?

Every community leader knows the value of a vibrant cultural center in drawing people to live, work and visit there. When you think of moving, you consider the schools, the downtown, the park systems and of course the culture of that community. When you think of vacationing, you consider what you will see when visiting. You say North Dakota – I say Mt. Rushmore.  You say Philadelphia – I say Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  You say Washington DC – I say the monuments and museums. You say St. Charles – I say Ekwabet. Or The Key. Or Mr. Eggwards.

Art has a place in every city – not only does it invigorate public spaces, but it helps distinguish our community and puts our values front and center for all who choose to see. To quote the Americans for the Arts, “Places with strong public art expressions break the trend of blandness and sameness, and give communities a stronger sense of place and identity”. We need this more than ever these days! What a gift it is to live among creative, engaging minds and see the fruits of their talent right in our own back yard.

St. Charles IL has a culture of its own and this rich culture is on public display throughout the community via our Public Art.  Recognizing the economic and cultural value of the arts, the Public Art Committee of the downtown St. Charles Partnership began a project in 2016 to inventory public art in our town. When the committee disbanded, they asked the St. Charles Arts Council to take on the project.  A year later, the result was a web site  www.artinpublicplacesstc.com) and an Otocast art tour created for all to enjoy.

The Art in Public Places website identifies more than 170 pieces of public art located throughout St. Charles – in Mt. St. Mary Park, Downtown, in and outside our schools, at Fine Line Creative Center….virtually all over town. Art pieces can be identified by artist name, medium or location of the art piece. Paintings, sculptures, murals, mosaics…all forms of art are included.

The Otocast art tour is a self-guided tour featuring approximately 26 pieces of public art in our community. All you need do is download the free Otocast app on your smart phone and the app automatically locates the St. Charles Art in Public Places and gives you a walking tour complete with background information on each piece. Featured artists include Ray Kobald, Guy Bellaver, Maria J. Kirby-Smith, Francis Joseph Gagnepain, Kimber Fiebiger and Clement Spampinato just to name a few.

As with any successful project, many community members were involved in producing this product. Chaired by Diana Brown, the Art in Public Places Task Force included:  John Abel (Fine Line Creative Arts Center), Sterling Ainsworth (St. Charles Arts Council), Anne Becker (City of St. Charles Visitors and Cultural Commission), Elizabeth Bellaver (St. Charles Arts Council), Holly Cabel (St. Charles Park District), Alison Costanza (St. Charles History Museum), Erin Livermore (All Things Art Studio), Matt O’Rourke (City of St. Charles Community/Economic Development), Al Patten (River Corridor Foundation), Jenna Sawicki (Downtown St. Charles Partnership), Mark Smith (Norris Cultural Arts Center, Mary Ann Tilton (St. Charles Public Library Foundation) and Ute Westphal (St. Charles Arts Council).

So next time you’re out for a walk around town, take a minute to learn about our rich art culture and enjoy the creativity that lives here in St. Charles. Public art is a reflection of our creative sect and invites you to experience art in the course of your daily life.  We have much to celebrate and be proud of!

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