The Century Walk Corporation

Naperville man works with local businesses to paint town with his murals

September 29, 2006 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL)

If you've ever walked around downtown Naperville, you've seen Barton Gunderson's work.

The artist, who recently moved from Colorado back to Naperville, painted "The Great Concerto," on the doors of the Community Concert Center. His work is on the wall at Features Bar and Grill, as well as Frankie's Blue Room and Club Mamalu.

"Most of my business is based in the Chicagoland area, and I was coming back every year to do projects," he said. "Since the Naperville project, I'm trying to do more public art, so we came back because we had kids and to be closer to friends and family."

He spent the last eight years in Colorado but lived in Naperville before that.

Much of his work is commercial, including hotels, restaurants and other private enterprises, he said.

"It doesn't get a lot of recognition in terms of during the process or even when it's completed," he said. "(Public art) is a nice alternative of being able to market myself and do large projects for cities or towns, projects that are highly visible and will be there for a long time."

He plans to continue with commercial and residential projects in Naperville. Jobs in private homes made up the bulk of his work while he lived in Vail, Colo., he said. Even so, he hopes to spend more time on public art projects, even though it's more challenging to secure those contracts, which usually involve tax dollars - not a line in a company's budget, he said.

"My approach to it is to fund the project through a partnership or a sponsorship, so if it was a project that the town would want, they would put up some of the money to get the project rolling and then they would start a campaign to raise the rest of the funds."

One way is to solicit potential sponsors by including their names or faces in the artwork, such as the city's concert center. Century Walk, the city's public arts organization, held raffles and sold spots on the mural for $1,000 apiece. Winners got to choose faces to be immortalized in the painting.

"That was a real successful campaign," Gunderson said.

Century Walk President Brand Bobosky said the program allowed the public arts organization to raise about $40,000, after expenses, toward the cost of the mural, which he said was about $90,000.

The funding model worked well, Bobosky said, and he could see using it again for similar projects.

"This is one way that turned out to be pretty good," he said. "It was well-received by the community and we got no complaints; nobody said that's not a good portrait. That's not what I thought I was going to get. The particular project would have to lend itself."

For a person who gets most of his work through word of mouth and personal recommendations, Gunderson hopes the exposure from public art projects will help promote his business.

"It gives a little more substance to the work than a commercial project, which looks cool, but may change in a seven- to 10-year timeframe," he said. "I think this area, there's a lot of walls out there and a lot of towns that are looking to do some cool things."

Contact Meg Dedolph at mdedolph@scn1.com or 630-416-5297.

PHOTO: Artist Bart Gunderson lowers a crane with an umbrella he was using Aug. 26, 2004, to work on a new mural on the Community Concert Center's 30-by-75 foot metal door.


Section: BUSINESS COVER — Page: 25