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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Art Talk – Head to Head


Logic may tell you that if getting ahead is good, getting two heads is even better. Perhaps that was the thought process behind the City of Naperville’s goal of joining the latest countywide public art movement, “Olmec Trails: Culture and Legacy.”

The outdoor exhibit comprises more than 30 vibrantly painted large-scale replicas of the Olmec colossal heads, sculptures bearing the facial features of the Olmec civilization of ancient Mesoamerica. Dating back as far as 1200 BCE, the original heads, carved from basalt boulders, ranged in height from five to eleven feet and weighed as much as 25 tons. Seventeen sculptures remain today in Mexico City, Tabasco, and Veracruz, Mexico.

The Olmec Trails project is the brainchild of Fernando Ramirez, founder and president of the Mexican Cultural Center – DuPage (MCCD) in West Chicago. When the City of Naperville caught wind of the opportunity to participate, it immediately got on board and agreed to host one of the heads.

“Olmec Trails sculptures pay tribute to the indigenous roots of Mexican heritage as well as bring attention to the importance of public art by showcasing the immense talent and creativity of more than 30 contemporary artists from across North America,” said Doug Krieger, Naperville’s city manager. “The artwork will connect artists to spectators with these one-of-a-kind works in a unique outdoor setting.”

The City then applied for and received a grant from the JCS Arts, Health and Education Fund of DuPage Foundation that covered half of the cost of the head, which will be displayed on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Eagle Street in mid-June through October. But why stop there? After an evaluation, the City added a second installation site at the 95th Street Library, 3015 Cedar Glade Drive, Naperville. Naperville’s SECA (Special Events and Community Arts) grant initiative provided the balance of the funding, making the Olmec heads among the first pieces of temporary art installed in Naperville since SECA established the Public Art program in May of 2022.

“The SECA Commission looks forward to the ‘Olmec Trails: Culture and Legacy’ installation, partly funded by Naperville’s Public Arts Program,” said Judy Brodhead, chair of the SECA Commission. “We think Naperville residents and visitors will enjoy seeing the colorful, impressive sculptures, which reflect the rich history of Mesoamerican art as interpreted by 21st-Century artists.”

Plans are in the works to partner with the Naperville Library, the Alliance of Latinos Motivating Action in the Suburbs, The DuPage Hispanic Alliance, SECA, and Sister Cities to present programming and special events celebrating the Olmecs and their contributions to our lives today.

The City will issue a press release soon that will include information on related programming and a date for the opening ceremony, so stay tuned!

Debbie Venezia
Debbie Veneziahttp://www.artsdupage.org
Debbie Venezia is the Director of Arts DuPage, a DuPage Foundation initiative. Contact her at debbie@dupagefoundation.org or visit www.artsdupage.org.