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Highlands Elementary home to latest Century Walk sculpture

October 20, 2011 — Source: Naperville Sun — Author: Jane Donahue

A morning rain didn’t discourage hundreds of people from gathering Thursday at Highlands Elementary School for the dedication of Naperville’s latest piece of public art. It would only be fitting for a whale to make its debut in a little water.

“The Highlands community is very excited to have our school whale sculpture included into the collection of the Century Walk,” said Principal Susan Stuckey. “To have a piece of public art that can be shared by everyone — our students and all Napervillians — makes us very proud.”

The concrete whale, created by artist Victoria Fuller, was dedicated as the 39th piece of art in the Century Walk collection. With a head almost nine feet high and a tail raised five feet in the air, it’s a testament to Highlands’ slogan, “A whale of a school.”

Stuckey said the original whale sculpture at the school was created by artist Joe LaMantia in 1997. After years of exposure to the elements, the wooden structure was in disrepair and was removed in 2010.

Members of Highlands Home and School organization set out to commission a new whale.

“This project was a community effort,” Stuckey said. “Parents donated money to the project in order to secure the artist. The Century Walk awarded Highlands a grant to assist with the creation. Many, many volunteers gave their time and talents to create our school’s art. North Central College and District 203 buildings and grounds departments provided muscle when needed.”

Century Walk founder and president W. Brand Bobosky said partnering with Highlands Elementary was an extension of the organization’s mission: to create significant public art throughout the community.

“Here is a school that believes in public art and the significance of it,” Bobosky said. “It’s a great story, a whale of a school. We were happy to play a role in this.”

Artist Victoria Fuller said more than 200 bags of concrete were used to create the whale and actual construction took about three months. Fuller was unable to attend the dedication, but said she enjoyed working with the Highlands community on this project.

“I wanted to make a large-scale sculpture that was a community-based project involving children,” said Fuller, of Chicago. “It was most fun working with the children and the volunteers.”

Wendy Serafin, committee member and Highlands parent, said the whale is a symbol of school pride and connection between students of past, present and future.

“We hope our sculpture will showcase the importance and value of fine arts not only in the community but also in our Naperville schools.” Serafin said. “The Century Walk’s commitment to public art in the community is such an important component to Naperville, its residents and our kids.”

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