Wilmette trustees began to color an image of what an inventive addition to the village’s downtown landscape may entail during their Tuesday, Sept. 26 meeting.
Trustees quickly got here to a general consensus that they support the concept of a public mural in Veteran’s Park, 1111 Central Ave., and by the meeting’s conclusion, directed village staff to start gathering nominations for an ad hoc committee that can guide the seek for a muralist and explore artwork possibilities.
Trustees’ show of support for the mural was prefaced by a brief background presentation from Wilmette Village Manager Mike Braiman, who told the board that village staff see the concept of adding public art as “an extension of our economic development efforts within the downtown.”
“We, as a staff, see this as a possibility to create a singular community gathering space at Veteran’s Park and to accomplish that for free of charge to our taxpayers through the fundraising efforts from the Sesquicentennial Committee in addition to support from the Wilmette Rotary Club,” Braiman said on the meeting.
Exploration of a public mural in Wilmette began in early 2021 when members of the village’s Sesquicentennial Committee contacted staff to debate public improvement projects that might be a component of the town’s one hundred and fiftieth celebration.
Committee members first envisioned painting a mural in Ouilmette Way, a renovated, multi-use path in downtown Wilmette, but in keeping with Braiman’s village memo, “agreements couldn’t be made with the constructing owners for everlasting installations.”
But the concept got here back into discussion earlier this 12 months when committee members Beth Drucker and Julie Wolf met with Braiman and a muralist to tour downtown and consider possible locations for public art. From there, Veteran’s Park became the highest selection.
“We checked out various locations and opportunities and this was clearly the most effective option,” Braiman said, adding that he thinks if officials “resolve it doesn’t work (at Veteran’s Park), we’d probably put a pin within the project for at once.”
Veteran’s Park is a small parcel between business buildings on Central Avenue. The park is currently under construction to create a shared community space and outdoor seating for incoming restaurant EvaDean’s Bakery and Cafe.
Village officials estimated a price for the project at roughly $40,000. Braiman detailed the funding plan to the board, noting that it would come for free of charge to Wilmette taxpayers.
In response to Braiman, Wilmette has roughly $34,000 in remaining funds from the Sesquicentennial Committee’s fundraising efforts and the sale of additional Ouilmette Way bricks.
Moreover, Rotary Club of Wilmette is considering a donation to the project, Braiman noted. He also said that Wilmette had previously budgeted for a $50,000 contribution to the village’s sesquicentennial however the funds went back into village coffers because of robust fundraising efforts.
The ad hoc committee would likely include five members under the plan laid out by Braiman. That will include representatives from the Sesquicentennial Committee and Human Relations Commission, a rotary club member, an area veteran, and “someone in the neighborhood with an inventive background.”
Trustees agreed with nearly all of staff’s recommendations, but several did express an interest in adding one other member to the committee with an art background. Just a few small-scale reservations were also brought forward from the board.
Trustee Gina Kennedy said she strongly supports the project but said “we don’t want art by committee,” adding that she hopes the committee is not going to micromanage the artist’s work.
After also expressing strong support, Trustee Stephen Leonard said he would love the committee to “be charged with starting at ground zero and difficult just about all the pieces about this project.” He shared hopes that it would explore budget and whether or not to make use of knowledgeable muralist or members of the community — potentially even students.
One resident spoke in the course of the public comment portion of the meeting, detailing his approval of the project.
“I feel public art really does lots for a community and I actually haven’t any art background, but I’ve learned that it truly is helpful in some ways,” George Pearce said. “I feel it might be great to have it at this location.”
Trustees also supported the proposed location.
“We just don’t have that many highly visible spaces in downtown Wilmette, and I’m really not particularly fascinated with having it someplace distant from the downtown,” Kennedy said. “Since we don’t do that fairly often, I feel it deserves to have a reasonably high profile in the neighborhood and in need of that site, I don’t know that there’s anything that would compare.”
The goal is to get the project off the bottom within the spring of 2024, in keeping with Braiman. Local officials also hope the mural could bring much more vibrancy to downtown Wilmette — throughout all parts of the day.
“We all know a variety of our neighbors look to Wilmette as a top destination and are attempting to copy what we have now, and we would like to remain fresh, stay vibrant and ensure that people need to proceed to spend their time here — not only at night, but in addition in the course of the day,” he said.
“Certainly one of the things we’ve really been enthusiastic about over the past 12 months is increasing daytime business retail activity … and we see this mural in Veteran’s Park as a method to further support and encourage that daytime population.”
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