According to Americans for the Arts, the arts are integral to the lives of our citizens. We appreciate them for their intrinsic benefits—their beauty and vision and how they inspire, soothe, provoke, and connect us. The arts ennoble us as people, providing bridges between cultures and embodying the accumulated wisdom, intellect, and imagination of humankind.
Simply put, the arts are essential to the health and vitality of our communities and our nation. They enhance community development, spur urban renewal, attract new businesses, draw tourism dollars, create an environment that attracts skilled, educated workers, and improve our quality of life.
The Decatur Parks Foundation, along with the Decatur Park District, Children’s Museum of Illinois, Decatur Area Arts Council, and Neuhoff Media, began conversations in October 2015 for an exciting, accessible, outdoor art development in Scovill Park. Shortly thereafter, the idea was proposed to a private philanthropist, who invested $250,000 to fund the project in its entirety.
The Scovill Sculpture Park lies between Scovill Zoo and the Children’s Museum of Illinois. Every year, the zoo hosts 100,000 visitors, and the Children’s Museum of Illinois sees 65,000. We hope that these visitors, and many more, will take advantage of the unique, sometimes whimsical, thought-provoking sculptures positioned along 800’ of walkways connecting the zoo and Children’s Museum.
If you haven’t yet visited the Sculpture Park, stop by! This beautiful venue is free and open year-round.
The Scovill Sculpture Park is comprised of 12 sculptures that are rented from the artists for a two-year period. By renting them rather than purchasing them, we will provide a new arts experience for the community every couple of years! An additional, purchased, permanent sculpture called Learning Curve by Aaron McIntosh is now the centerpiece of the park.
In the call for temporary art pieces, 106 different items form 41 artists were submitted. The artists come from across the United States – from Las Vegas to New York and everywhere in between! The sculptures represent a diverse group of size, media, and subject matter.
Permanent Sculpture: Learning Curve by Aaron McIntosh
At the Scovill Sculpture Park entrance, Learning Curve appears to be peeled up from the ground to reveal something hidden. Each element of this beautiful piece has been custom-designed, from the striking mirrored back to the one-of-a-kind, curved LED display, which reflects into a pool of water. The sculpture was inspired by Aaron’s desire to see local artistry unearthed, put on display, and reflected in all directions. The heavy, unpolished steel structure is a tribute to our local workforce, and the steel pieces were fabricated by Decatur’s Iron Bull Fabrication. A strong labor backbone gives our community a framework upon which all can enjoy the arts. In the future, the LED display will provide a platform featuring the work of local artists and Millikin students, as well as offer an interactive feature to engage families in the park.
About the Artist Aaron McIntosh
Following graduation from Champaign Centennial High School, Aaron McIntosh (39) put his passion for the arts to work as an apprentice at a local sign shop. For the past 2 decades, his discipline has primarily been the design, fabrication, installation, and service of commercial signs and graphics. Five years ago, Aaron had the opportunity to found his own company, New Era Signs, Inc., in partnership with his wife, Abigail. Their goal is to breathe new life into the signs that line Decatur’s streets and to provide local businesses with storefront graphics they can be proud of. Aaron and Abi also own and operate Standing Paddle Co. at Nelson Park, offering kayak and stand up paddleboard (SUP) rentals on beautiful Lake Decatur. Aaron has been both excited and humbled by the opportunity to build a permanent piece for Scovill Sculpture Park through the generosity of the Howard Buffet Foundation.
“I’ve been inspired by the beauty of Decatur’s parks and people,” Aaron said, “and I want to tell an optimistic and engaging story with my digital sculpture, Learning Curve. This has been both a rewarding and challenging project that I hope will bring an interesting, interactive feature to the park for years to come.”
People’s Choice Award
The 2016 winner of the People’s Choice Award goes to Please Sit Down, Read Me a Story by Douglas Guizenga. Mr. Guizenga, from Interlochen, MI., received $2,500. Renee Stivers and Shataea Irons of Decatur each won $250 for participating in the contest. Congratulations!