The Century Walk Corporation

Sculpture dedication honors ‘whale’ of an effort at Highlands

October 19, 2011 — Source: Trib Local Naperville — Author: Mick Swasko

Highlands Elementary School prides itself on being a “Whale of a School,” and the dedication of a sculpture honoring its mascot matched the marine animals magnitude.

Student artists joined Mayor George Pradel and Century Walk President Brand Bobosky at a dedication ceremony Thursday afternoon, where the colorful concrete whale was unveiled to the public.

“I’m so excited, I just can’t make it into a sentence,” said 6th-grader Jacek Kulak, one of the student artists who contributed colorful tiles to the sculpture. He said the piece is the “best” addition to Naperville’s Century Walk. Bobosky echoed that sentiment, saying the event saw the largest turnout of any Century Walk dedication.

The effort took public and private donations, artistic students and parent volunteers to complete. The original sculpture, which adorned the playground for 13 years, was taken down last year after the wooden frame began to deteriorate.

“The whale was quite the symbol of Highlands, but more important than that a symbol for the community,” Susan Rocco, a Home and School Association member and project manager for the sculpture, said.

The completed sculpture — the work of artist Vicki Fuller — was designated as a piece in Naperville’s Century Walk, a collection of public art around Naperville supported by the Century Walk Foundation. It is the 39th piece to be added to the collection.

Deborah Landry, Fuller’s assistant, read a statement from Fuller, who was unable to make the ceremony because of a family emergency.

“It has been a grand and ambitious project,” Fuller’s statement said. “It has been very great to see the whale come together.”

Pradel got the crowd of elementary students riled as he asked them to shout out what the name of the whale should be — and suggested “George” might be a good fit.

In all, the Home and School Association raised $9,000 for the piece, and $12,000 was donated by the Century Walk, Bobosky said. But monetary donations weren’t the only factors that made the installation possible.

“We would not have been able to do it without their generosity,” Rocco said of several parents at the school that donated trailers, sand and other materials to support the project.

The students pitched in as well.

“We wanted our students to be a part of it, because we wanted the next group of students to have pride and care in it,” said Highlands Principal Susan Stuckey, adding that last year’s 5th-graders created clay marine animals — angelfish, eels and turtles, to name a few — that will be added as a permanent part of the whale.

The school adopted the slogan “A Whale of a School” in 1983, and in the following years, several small whale sculptures were purchased in honor of a student with a fondness for the animal, who later succumbed to illness. In1997, the school built the original whale out of recycled materials, only to tear the mostly wooden structure down in 2010 because of wear-and-tear.

“It was difficult,” Stuckey said of the demolition. “A lot of families and kids kid of connected with that.”