Of all the undoubtedly tens of thousands of images of our 16th President captured by paparazzi, painters, sculptors and sketch artists over the years, you’d be hard pressed to find one of Abraham Lincoln where he seems to be enjoying himself. This despite his often irrepressible sense of humor and seemingly inexhaustible supply of bon mots.

Well, all that is about to change. And it’s going to happen in Naperville.

At 2PM on Sun., Dec. 2, the first known image – and certainly first sculpture – of Lincoln laughing will be unveiled and dedicated in a ceremony at Central Park under the aegis of Century Walk, the city’s public art program. And immediately after the dedication there will be a celebratory reception and fundraiser for Naperville’s Century Walk at Wentz Hall.

Timed to coincide with the celebration of Illinois’ Bicentennial Celebrations throughout the state the following day, installation of the Laughing Lincoln sculpture, as it has been dubbed, will mark the 50th piece of public art situated largely in the Downtown area.

Each of the artworks, from paintings and sculptures to murals and motifs, celebrates the city’s rich history of economic and social development and cultural awareness.

Lincoln has a special place in Naperville’s history because he worked alongside the city’s founder, Joe Naper, in the state legislature and the two, it’s been said, engaged in a bit of logrolling. Naper helped Lincoln secure the votes to move the State Capitol from Vandalia to Springfield and Lincoln, in turn, helped Naper garner enough “yeas” to carve all of DuPage County out of Cook County.

“We think it is fitting to honor a man who managed – in the worst of circumstances – to pull our country together,” says Lindy Dickey, local artist and a member of the Century Walk Board of Directors. “And he did so many times by lightening up the discourse and enabling rivals, often through humor, to focus on what they had in common instead of what drew them apart. It is equally fitting to do so in conjunction of the Illinois Bicentennial by honoring the state’s most famous citizen.

“We encourage everyone to take a break from their busy lives and join us for an afternoon of fun on Sun., Dec. 2,” says Dickey.

“After all,” she says, with the slightest lilt in her voice, “we’ll be delivering Lincoln’s ‘Naperville Address’.”

The community is welcome to the dedication in Central Park. For tickets and information about the fundraising reception that follows, visit www.centurywalk.org.

– Jim Dudas, for Century Walk