A winter spent on the ice, a colorful celebration of immigrants, and a bustling trade city, all parts of Naperville’s past, now brought to life as “Streaming History,” five murals that decorate the Riverwalk.
The murals are painted on ceramic tile by New Mexico based artist Debora Duran-Geiger. She worked closely with Brian Ogg, former historian of Naper Settlement, to ensure the city’s history made its way into each piece.
“It was an incredible experience, learning the history and the stories behind each panel,” said Debora Duran-Geiger, the artist of the set.
The project has been a long time coming. Nick Ryan, CEO of Marquette Companies, developer of Water Street, picked Duran-Geiger for the job back in 2015, right around the time when construction was beginning on the new district.
“We walked down and stood on the bridge and it was in the very infancy, there were maybe five pieces of rebar sticking out of the river,” said Duran-Geiger. “I had no idea it would become this.”
It’s now a series of five murals: “Harvest Time,” a painting of one of Main Street’s old bridges, “Winter on the River” a depiction of Napervillians from the late 1800s harvesting ice and skating, “Water Street Yesterdays,” which shows the old mill and furniture store that used to be on water street, “Immigration Celebration,” representing the immigrants from all over the world that have contributed to the city, and “Commerce Comes Alive” which shows Naperville’s history of trade, from settlers trading with Native Americans, to John Naper’s trading post, to the Rubin family’s store.
“Streaming History” joins over 40 other art projects supported by the Century Walk, an ongoing project focused on bringing public art with local historical significance to Naperville.
“From here if you’re up by Imburgia Fountain you can look straight across the river and see our Riverwalk Visionaries Sculpture, if you go to the west by the Township you can see Dick Tracy, if you look back by the right by the Main Street bridge you see Jane Ladshaw and Jimmy Herr, high school sweethearts on a bench,” said W. Brand Bobosky, President of the Century Walk Corporation. “All of these pieces tell a unique story, as these five murals do.”
Like all of the Century Walk’s locations, there’s a plaque giving information about the art on site. And though there isn’t one for this piece yet, most of the locations have audio descriptions, accessible via QR code on the plaque or at m.centurywalk.org.
Streaming history is also a waterproof installation, capable of withstanding the occasional flood the Riverwalk sees.
And another Naperville Century Walk piece will soon be repaired.
It was last summer when an 81-year-old driver crashed into “Man’s Pursuit of Knowledge through the Ages,” a brick relief located outside the Nichols Library.
The crash created a six-foot hole in the middle of the artwork, but the Century Walk has been working with Dodie Mondero to repair it.
Each brick was carved individually then assembled to create the wall, so the repair work has included numbering each brick and putting them back in the right spots.
The repairs should be completed within the next couple of weeks.
“Man’s Pursuit of Knowledge Through the Ages” was created in 1987 and adopted by the Century Walk in 1998.
Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.
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