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Public art energizing communities

In front of the St. Charles Public Library are two 12-feet-high, stainless steel, human-shaped figures looking upward.

Entitled “Read Them Like A Book,” the figures are just one example of the public art made by Geneva artist Jim Jenkins. He thinks public art adds excitement to a community.

“I think it energizes a community,” he said.

Sculptor Ray Kobald, who lives near St. Charles, agreed. His work is visible throughout the area, which includes the Dellora Norris sculpture commissioned by the Downtown St. Charles Partnership that stands in front of the St. Charles Municipal Center, and the Col. Edward Baker statue in front of the Hotel Baker in downtown St. Charles.

“It enriches the community,” Kobald said. “It helps educate children, and it helps foster an interest in the arts in adults.”

It’s also good for the artist, he said.

“It’s important for an artist to have his work seen,” Kobald said.

Batavia officials also know the value of public art. Batavia MainStreet executive director Joi Cuartero said the Bulldogs Unleashed fundraising project in 2011 was a hit.

As part of the project, colorfully painted bulldog statues were on display in downtown Batavia helping raise funds for the Batavia Public Library Foundation, the Batavia Parks Foundation and the Batavia Foundation for Educational Excellence.

“There were people from all over who came to stop and look and appreciate them,” she said.

Batavia’s asking artists to submit their ideas for the last two sculptures on the Wilson Street Bridge. The themes for the next two sculptures are “Science and Art.”

The Batavia City Council will name the winning artists in September.

Public art also can be functional. The Geneva Cultural Arts Commission and the City of Geneva Public Art Advisory Committee along with the city of Geneva is looking for artists and designers to submit proposals for artwork that will serve as bike racks. The racks will be installed in the fall at specific locations in downtown Geneva.

The Geneva Cultural Arts Commission has the mission of creating “diverse cultural art experiences” that engage the community. And Cultural Arts Commission Chairperson Tim Vetang said he knows the value of art to a community.

“It brings people into a town,” he said. “It’s one part of the economic engine that drives a community.”

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