Normal, Ill. – Aug. 21, 2023 – The Town of Normal convened a new working group to inform and expand the Town’s public art activities. Appointed by Mayor Chris Koos, the diverse, 20-member body comprises working artists, educators, arts patrons, students, arts administration professionals and staff from the town’s Cultural Arts, Parks & Recreation and Planning departments.
“We are excited to bring together this dynamic and diverse group of stakeholders to help shape the future of public art in Normal,” says Koos. “We appreciate their commitment and sharing of their time, talents and valuable perspectives to these efforts.”
Town of Normal Cultural Arts Director Beth Whisman says the group is committed to a transparent approach to its work, which will consist of reviewing and workshopping plans, proposals, artist qualifications, art pieces and more—ultimately formulating consensus-based recommendations regarding Normal’s public art initiatives.
The Town has budgeted $150,000 for public art activities during the current fiscal year. The public art working group’s initial efforts will center on two pilot projects:
- Professional Master Planning for a sculpture garden to be located on public property at One Normal Plaza; and
- Commissioning a mural for the interior of the Uptown Connector underpass
Updates on these projects and other public art activities will be published via the online Normal Forum at www.normalil.gov/publicart.
Public Art Survey Paves the Way
Prior to convening the Public Art Working Group, the Town commissioned a scientific survey in Spring 2023 to collect input to identify art-related preferences and opportunities within Normal. In all, more than 1,000 people responded to the survey; of those, 443 responses were scientifically collected and representative of the local population.
Open to those who live, work and play in Normal, the survey included inquiries about parks and public places visited regularly, the types and kind of art most “intriguing or attractive” in public spaces and where people would like to see permanent art displayed.
Key findings from the public art survey:
- 42 percent of respondents reported that creating attractive community spaces was a main benefit of public art.
- 40 percent reported that promoting art and local artists was a main benefit of public art.
- More than 40 percent found colorful and whimsical public art most attractive or intriguing.
- More than half want to see more interactive public art, paintings and sculptures around Normal.
- 50 percent are interested in more performing arts opportunities.
- 46 percent of respondents visit Uptown Normal at least once a week.
- 79 percent visit Normal Parks at least every few months. (Fairview Park and Anderson Park were the most-visited.)
- More than 45 percent want to see visual art on concrete walls and in areas along Constitution Trail and in existing parks.
The full survey results are posted on the Normal Forum at www.normalil.gov/publicart.
For more information about the Town of Normal’s cultural arts programming, visit www.normalil.gov/arts.
Public Art Working Group Members:
- Dave Bentlin, retired Illinois State University; Prairie Pride Coalition President
- Megan Kathol Bersett, Heartland Community College Art Instructor, Illinois State University MFA alum (Master of Fine Arts), and local mixed media painter
- Bob Broad, art patron, English professor, Illinois State University
- Ed Cimoch, producer and patron of the arts
- Doug Damery, Parks and Recreation Director, Town of Normal
- Mercy Davison, Town Planner, Town of Normal
- Adam Fox, Civic Arts Manager, Town of Normal
- Doug Johnson, McLean County Arts Center Executive Director; Arts Alliance Illinois Board
- Hannah Johnson, Illinois Art Station Executive Director; Illinois State University Community Consulting Board
- Gary Justis, independent artist in sculpture, drawing, printmaking and ceramics
- Rick Lewis, painter; retired Illinois State University Associate Dean of Students
- Ezekiel Mendez, University High School student
- Dann Nardi, independent artist in sculpture
- Leah Rainey, Communications and Marketing Specialist, Town of Normal
- Shloka Ravinuthala, Normal Community High School student; Youth on a Mission Chair
- Kari Sandhaas, artist; board member of Ecology Action Center and Autism McLean
- Richa Shukla; University High School student; Youth Engaged in Philanthropy
- Sarah Smelser, Harold Boyd Endowed Professor, Certified Search Advocate, Illinois State University Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts
- Patsy Webber, fine arts patron
- Beth Whisman, Cultural Arts Director, Town of Normal