The Century Walk Corporation

Public art group seeks more money from Naperville

February 13, 2015 — Source: Daily Herald — Author: Marie Wilson

For 19 years, Brand Bobosky has been the driving force behind Naperville's public art displays, which include 47 murals, sculptures and artifacts highlighting the city's history.

Most of the nonprofit Century Walk Corp.'s displays are prominent in Naperville's bustling downtown -- a source of the city's boundless civic pride.

But the 75-year-old Bobosky says the annual ritual of begging for limited funds is making it difficult for his group to plan ahead.

The displays, he says, are in growing need of upkeep. Fundraising is becoming more difficult. Century Walk is unlikely to ever be self-sustaining, despite collecting $1.7 million in donations since 1996.

Century Walk wants to continue to add projects, Bobosky says, but it may be best for the nonprofit group to merge into the city and become a quasi-municipal organization similar to the historic Naper Settlement or the Riverwalk.

"Public art, to our thinking, has been 'art of the people, for the people and paid for by the people,'" Bobosky wrote in an application for money from the city's Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund. "Basically, going back through history, public art has been a function of the government."

Bobosky is seeking greater government buy-in to support Century Walk, and he'll be making his pitch to the city's advisory cultural commission at 9 a.m. Saturday in the municipal center at 400 S. Eagle St.

Century Walk wants a three-year commitment to receive 10 percent of the fund -- or roughly $200,000 -- each year to put toward maintenance of its 47 pieces of public art and creation of more. This would be considered an "existing agreement" with the Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund, often called SECA.

Five projects have existing agreements with the fund, which is supported by a 1 percent food and beverage tax. Bobosky said his organization wants to be one of them.

"We are asking that we be given credit for what we have done and award us the monies necessary to carry on our work," Bobosky wrote in the grant application. "After 19 years of partnering with the city to produce a quality public art program, it would be most efficient to award Century Walk an annual percentage as a capital project with an 'existing agreement' and let our board anguish over how to spend it, rather than for the advisory commission and/or council to micromanage our actions."

Century Walk is working on partnerships for new art in the Water Street District downtown and in a park North Central College is developing along the Riverwalk. But maintenance and planning are the main reasons the group is applying for a three-year financial commitment.

"We need to look at maintenance. This is certainly different than it was 15 years ago; the pieces are all that much older," Bobosky said. "If it isn't top-notch, it's no good. We don't want to have something that isn't quality."

Becky Anderson, chairwoman of the advisory cultural commission and a city council candidate, said she is open to considering an agreement with Century Walk instead of reviewing its need for funds yearly with roughly 80 other SECA grant applications.

"I think it's an issue that does need to move into an existing agreement, especially for the maintenance and upkeep," Anderson said.

If Century Walk wants to merge into a quasi-city organization, Anderson said questions about art placement and liability need to be answered.

"If it becomes a city amenity, we need to figure out who the ownership is and where the art is and the ramifications of it," Anderson said. "This needs to move to council for them to figure out a permanent solution."

The council is set to consider SECA grant applications during a workshop in March.