By Bob Uphues
The Brookfield village board on Jan. 27 gave its blessing to the village's Beautification Commission to move ahead with a proposal to place a metal sculpture at the "taxi stand" on Brookfield Avenue, just east of Prairie Avenue.
The 8-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide sculpture on a convex, mosaic-decorated concrete base would replace a flower bed at the site, which includes a couple of benches shaded by red maple trees.
It would be the Brookfield Beautification's second major initiative and the first of the commission's planned public art installations along the tracks. The sculpture would serve partly as a memorial to Al Kitzer, the village's former public works director, who died in 2012.
"The concept for this actually came about a couple years ago when the committee talked about creating a memorial to acknowledge Al Kitzer … for his dedication to the village not only as an employee but as a volunteer," said Beautification Commission member Pam Powers, who presented the plan to the village board with fellow commissioner Linda Dunbar.
Kitzer and his wife, Maureen, volunteered to care for the "taxi stand" area as part of the Beautification Commission's Adopt-A-Spot program.
"It would not only be a great tribute to Al but also the spirit of volunteerism in the community as well," said Powers.
Maureen Kitzer said the project fulfills one of her husband's longtime wishes for that particular spot in the village.
"Al had always hoped to add something special to the area because the train station is a visible, focal point of town where trains and cars pass by every day," she said. "We are very touched, and a bit overwhelmed, that it will serve in part as a memorial to Al and his dedication to Brookfield. It truly means a lot to us to know that other people saw Al's commitment to this town."
The design of the sculpture is actually a take on the Beautification Commission's logo, which Dunbar designed — dragonflies hovering over prairie grass along the river. As the commission searched for ideas for a sculpture last year, they ran across a piece on Lake Street in Oak Park by an artist named Luke Russell, who coincidentally turned out to be a Brookfield resident.
His free-form tree design got commissioners thinking that their logo might serve exactly the purpose of their sculpture.
"When we were looking at Luke's piece, it kind of inspired us, and we thought, 'We've already got it with Linda's work,'" Powers said.
But the connection with Russell turned out to be critical. The commission still needed someone to fabricate the work. That person will be Luke's brother, Paul, a blacksmith who works at the family's business, Lawndale Forge, on Chicago's Southwest Side. The 27-year-old Paul Russell is also a Brookfield resident.
"I'm pretty excited about it," said Russell, who added he's interested in tackling public art projects such as Brookfield's. "I'm hoping this will be a jump-off project for me and my brother as well."
Russell said he envisions the prairie grass blades to be forged of stainless steel that will be given a patina of color. The dragonflies would be made of carbon steel and plated with a combination of zinc and nickel. He said the materials are corrosion-resistant and strong enough to prevent vandalism.
The plating on the dragonflies will give them an iridescence that will throw off colors like purple, gold, yellow and green, depending on how the light hits the piece.
For now the plan calls for the sculpture to be set in a convex concrete base. Exact details on how the piece will be installed need to be worked out.
Powers said preliminary estimates indicate they'll need to raise about $6,000 to create the piece. The commission's fundraising arm, a 501c3 organization called Beautify Brookfield, will handle that end. The organization was able to raise a couple thousand dollars last year at the Fall Fest in Kiwanis Park, which featured a rubber duck race.
The kickoff for the fundraising effort is likely to come in conjunction with the spring's Project NICE, a community wide cleanup day organized by the Beautification Commission.
Once he gets the go-ahead, Russell estimated that completing the piece will take about four months.