Brookfield’s Beautification Commission is inviting residents to take an active role in appreciating its newest public art project, which will be unveiled on Saturday, Sept. 22 – to coincide with the Brookfield Fine Arts Fest – at Ehlert Park on the village’s south end.

Dubbed “Angels in the Outfield” and painted by resident Jessica Tamburello, the brightly colored mural features two sets of wings, one adult-size and one child-size on a freestanding 10-by-10 foot wall near Shields Avenue between the fire station and the baseball field.

“We’re looking into doing more interactive art in Brookfield in the next year-plus,” said Julie Lauksmen, chairwoman of the Brookfield Beautification Commission, an all-volunteer advisory group that focuses not only on public art projects, but other initiatives such as the Adopt-A-Spot program and Project NICE, the biannual village-wide clean-up efforts.

“We felt this was a good way to kick it off.”

The commission chose Tamburello’s “wings” mural concept from about a dozen submissions the group collected after putting out a call during the summer. After getting feedback on the five finalists, the commission chose Tamburello’s because of its interactive potential and because murals featuring wings are also something of a hot commodity in public art circles.

“Wings have been done so many times, and I thought it would be fun and pretty to do our own spin on it,” said Tamburello, who is executive director of Compassion Factory Art Gallery and Studio in Brookfield.

Artist Kelsey Montague started her “What Lifts You” public art campaign in 2014-15 in Australia and New Zealand and the concept proved an irresistible social media smash. In recent years, wings murals have popped up all over, including one last year on the side wall of a building on Hillgrove Avenue in LaGrange, across the street from the Stone Avenue train station.

“We wanted to be part of something that was relevant,” Lauksmen said.

The commission hopes the mural will be popular with families who go to the park and stop to take photos of themselves and their families posed in front of the wings and share them on social media platforms like Instagram with the hashtags #whatliftsyou and #brookfieldart.

Tamburello and Compassion Factory owner Karl Sokol will be painting the mural this week so that it’s ready in time for this weekend’s art fest in Kiwanis Park. Though the mural is in a different location than the fest, Compassion Factory and the Brookfield Beautification Commission will have tables at the Fine Arts Fest to spread the word about the mural and encourage people to visit and snap photos to share.

The commission will also be sounding out visitors on ideas for more interactive art opportunities in Brookfield.

After the mural is painted, it will be given a clear coat to protect it from the weather. Lauksmen said the plan is for the mural to stay up for a year or perhaps more and then be replaced with other murals in the future on an ongoing basis.

Lauksmen said the commission is contemplating creating a public art subcommittee to update the commission’s Public Art Plan, which was created in 2011 and resulted in a mural at Progress Park (at Eight Corners) and the dragonfly sculpture on Brookfield Avenue next to north Metra platform. 

“With the new [Brookfield] comprehensive plan, we can synch it with village goals,” Lauksmen said.

How you can help fund public art in Brookfield

Public art, while a benefit to the community more often than not, is not cheap. In addition to paying for materials such as paint – or in the case of Brookfield dragonfly sculpture, the cost of manufacturing it – artists need to be compensated for their work and time.

In short, art isn't cheap.

While the Brookfield Beautification Commission is the group that comes up with ideas for public art initiatives, a nonprofit foundation called Beautify Brookfield is the commission's fundraising arm and the source of funds for things like the Ehlert Park mural, for which the foundation is contributing a $250 artist honorarium.

The foundation accepts donations and also holds an annual rubber ducky race fundraiser that's held in conjunction with the Brookfield Fine Arts Fest. This year's Beautify Brookfield Duck Race will take place at noon on Saturday, Sept. 22. A front end loader will dump scores of yellow rubber ducks into Salt Creek from the Washington Avenue bridge, and they'll float down the river to the canoe launch. The top three finishers earn cash prizes.

Rubber ducks are $5 apiece and can be purchased at First National Bank of Brookfield, 9136 Washington Ave., and at the Brookfield Beautification Commission's table at the Brookfield Fine Arts Fest in Kiwanis Park until 11 a.m.

Last year's race raised more than $3,000 for Beautify Brookfield.

Bob Uphues