The Century Walk Corporation


July 12, 2000 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Katherine Unmuth

What: Two mosaic benches outside the former Naperville Municipal Center, 175 W. Jackson Ave.

Artist: Jennifer Hereth

Why: Hereth completed the benches in November 1996 for Naperville's ongoing Century Walk project, a public arts program created as a tribute to important people, places and events in the city during the 20th century.

Inspiration: The benches are modeled after the early 20th century lounges created by Naperville's Kroehler Furniture Company.

Spanish Roots: Hereth developed the idea of designing mosaic benches from Spanish artist Antoni Gaud's park benches.

Gaud crafted his benches from materials he found in various places.

The multicolored tiles covering the benches, hand-picked by Hereth, come from as close as local merchants and as far as Portugal and Egypt.

"I worked within that tradition," Hereth said.

"I was teaching in Costa Rica at the time, so I collected up tiles in Costa Rica, and hand painted the tiles there."

Hereth said she even "found" some tiles to use when her son broke a plate.

"One morning, when we were still working on the benches, my 5-year-old dropped a plate in the kitchen, and he said `Mommy, I'm so sorry', and I said, `No, it's perfect for the benches,'" Hereth said.

"It's kind of a funny story in my family."

Design: The benches depict recreation on the DuPage River during the first quarter of the 20th century.

One bench represents springtime at the river with images of fishermen on the pillow.

The second depicts the wintertime, with figure skaters on the pillow.

Hereth based the images on pictures she found at Naper Settlement.

She also included a small photo of each of her sons on the art.

A place to relax: Hereth said she wanted the public to be able to enjoy her benches when she created them.

"I was hoping that they would be kind of funky," she said.

"They're not realistic, they're not really slick and elegant.

I was hoping that people would come to love them even though they're a little funky."

Now Hereth said she is happy to often see people reclining on her benches when she passes through Naperville.

"I've often gone past them and seen kids, their families, lying down on them, and that really makes my heart happy to see how well used they are."

Evan Davis, 3, of Novi, Mich., views the world of Naperville from on top of the mosaic tile benches on Jefferson Avenue. The benches were completed in 1996 as part of Naperville's ongoing Century Walk Project. Davis is visiting his grandparents, Richard and Pat Backer, of Naperville.


Section: NEWS — Page: 32