Just three months after detailing its master plan for installing public art at various locations in the village, the Brookfield Beautification Commission plans to unveil a mural at what will become a mini-public park at Eight Corners in June.
The 10-by-37-foot mural, whose design is the result of a collaborative effort by art students at Riverside-Brookfield High School and local artist Sonata Kazimieraitiene, will be displayed on four separate 8-by-8-foot panels inside a wooden frame on land at the corner of Washington and Broadway avenues, next to Sparkle Cleaners.
The land is owned by First National Bank of Brookfield and has been for sale since 2008. It’s the only one of the “eight corners” that remains undeveloped. It previously was home to a bank drive-thru.
According to Phil Richard, president of First National Bank of Brookfield, the beautification commission approached him about using the location after he joked at a Chamber of Commerce function that the bank had land available.
“[Then-beautification commission chairman] Ryan Evans was there, and they approached us and asked, ‘Can we use the property?'” Richard recalled. “It’s very well done and really makes Brookfield a better place. We’re fully behind it.”
Things started coming together quickly after the commission enlisted Kazimieraitiene to serve as the point person on the mural design. She is a Brookfield resident who last year was involved in helping students at Hollywood School create a sculpture that now stands outside their building.
When she saw a news report of the beautification commission’s plan for public art in Brookfield, she volunteered to help out.
“I felt like since I have experience in the field and live in the village, I’d love to be part of it,” Kazimieraitiene said.
With a theme for the mural of the “four elements” the commission approached Nick Gehl, chairman of the RBHS Fine Arts Department. The high school’s art department previously played a key role in creating several panels for a large-scale mural that spanned the first-floor of the Arcade Building in Riverside in 2009, so they were a natural choice.
“We offered our students’ services, but we recommended that they find a professional artist to take the lead,” said Gehl. “We would provide the ideas and the worker bees.”
Two weeks ago students completed sketches for the four mural panels. Like the mural they did for Riverside, there is a unifying motif in the Brookfield mural – a whirling contrail that brings a sense of movement to the composition.
In addition, RBHS English teacher Christine Stiel’s students are working to develop seven-word poems that can be woven into the composition, a concept similar to the Language of Conservation Project launched by Brookfield Zoo last year in cooperation with other local institutions.
The goal now is to get the panels sketched out in order for the students to paint them in time for their unveiling, planned to coincide with the Brookfield Art Fair on June 11-12.
That sketching started Monday, with students in Gehl’s Drawing/Painting II class outlining projected images on parachute cloth, which will eventually be stretched over the wood or cement panels. The acrylic paint will then be sealed with a gel that will weatherproof the mural and make it resistant to graffiti.
On May 23, said Gehl, the serious work of painting the panels will be done by the 25 students in his class.
“Keeping it to one class of students, they can really have a sense of personal involvement and ownership as well,” Gehl said.
According to Pam Powers, the beautification commission’s chairperson for the community art project, the frame for the mural is being built be Roger Freeman of Freeman Fence in Brookfield, who is donating his labor.
The mural will be the centerpiece for a park, which will be completed over time. It will eventually include elements such as stepping stones, a bench and landscaping. Powers said the entire project is expected to cost between $3,000 and $5,000.
“We’re in the process of working with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations about funding,” Powers said. “It should be minimal.”
And the mural/park project is just the start, Powers said. The Brookfield Beautification Commission is already in talks with the Chicago Zoological Society about sprucing up the Hollywood Avenue Metra stop, which is maintained by the society.
The project includes “basically refurbishing the lions, doing landscaping and including the ‘language of conservation’ theme,” said Powers. “We’re also trying to do signage to lead people to the zoo and to the village.”