Marquette Companies’ CEO Nick Ryan, Peter Foyo, President, Principal Standard Group and Brand Bobosky, Chairman of Naperville Century Walk got their first look at one of the new ceramic murals which will grace the Water Street District Riverwalk when the shopping, dining and hotel district opens later this year. Santa Fe artist Debora Duran-Geiger delivered a small study of a piece commemorating the Old Main Street Bridge and Naperville’s farming life. The piece, to be executed in porcelain tiles, will join four others on the District’s north-facing wall along the Riverwalk , on the south bank of the DuPage River. The finished art will be a large glazed mosaic, approximately nine feet wide and five feet high.
Funded by private investors including the Dominic and Joyce Imbursia Family, the Peter Foyo Family and the Nicholas and Teresa Ryan Family, installed by Marquette Companies and administered by Century Walk, the series of works will depict life on the river along historic Water Street, as well as celebrating the many immigrant families who settled and grew Naperville throughout history.
“Art is an important part of Naperville’s downtown landscape and the Riverwalk is art in itself, with the walkways, fountains and artistic landscaping,” says Ryan. “This series will connect the original Water Street of the 1800’s to the amazing transformation to the Water Street District. Seeing the initial mural design, depicting the famous Main Street bridge, the early buildings on Water Street and the rural surroundings is amazing. It brought joy to my heart!”
Ryan met Duran-Geiger and her husband Mike at last fall’s Riverwalk Art Fair, where they were showing some of the artist’s tile murals. Shortly thereafter the Water Street team enlisted Bryan Ogg, Curator of Research at Naper Settlement to search out historic scenes from life along Water Street. The team also solicited the assistance of Brand Bobosky and Century Walk and began to engage private investors to fund the commission and installation of what will ultimately be a series of five murals.
“Century Walk has been leading the charge to bring art to downtown Naperville for many years,” says Ryan. “It was only natural to rely on their expertise and that of Brand Bobosky to help bring the art to Water Street in a way that will be of very high quality and be well maintained for the century to come.”
Using photos and references from the Naper Settlement archives, Duran-Geiger began with a paper and pencil sketch of her concept, which she then transferred onto terra cotta bisque-fired tiles. Using wax resist, querda seca and skip trailing techniques, she glazed the image with a variety of glazes to give the piece dimension and texture. The sky was given the water-color effect with majolica gaze technique. The sample tiles were then fired in an electric kiln by her husband Mike.
“It’s amazing to see a community so engrossed in its own history and dedicated to keeping it,” says Duran-Geiger. “The vision of Century Walk and Marquette to use art to enhance the community and inform viewers is unique. Mike and I travel a lot and I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it.” Duran-Geiger visited Naper Settlement while visiting to deliver her “Old Main Street Bridge” study last week, and is incorporating numerous little touches to make the pieces even more indigenous. Look closely at the “Old Main Street Bridge” and you’ll see a cardinal, the State bird, and violets, the State flower of Illinois. “It’s an honor to have my pieces hung in a community so committed to making art a part of everyday life,” she says. “My husband lived here along with five brothers and sisters as a boy, and went to Elmwood School. He’s wanted to come back. Now I see why.”
Studies for additional pieces will be delivered throughout the summer and the installation of the final murals on Water Street is anticipated later this year as construction permits.