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Music, Art and Theatre

The arts play an integral part in the daily life of Naperville. Residents of all ages participate in a wide variety of artistic endeavors and enjoy viewing and listening to them, as well, whenever possible. They are well aware that the arts enhance lives. Century Walk Corporation

Murals, mosaics, reliefs and sculptures adorn the sidewalks of Naperville, telling the city’s story in a way that is engaging and entertaining to all ages. Since 1996, Century Walk Corporation, Naperville’s Public Art Program, has contracted with artists around the country to use paint, ceramics, bronze, clay and glass to depict its most important people, places and events in 48 different locations around the community.

The artwork ranges from sculptures of various Dr. Seuss characters in front of the city’s libraries, to murals of citizens enjoying a parade, artists working on creations and the Naperville Municipal Band performing. There are also statues of Naperville citizens like Genevieve Towsley, a Naperville journalist and historian; William Shatzer, a World War II veteran and local football player; and even the former owners of a downtown ice cream parlor, Walter and Grace Fredenhagen, not to mention world icon, Dick Tracy.

The idea for this popular amenity was sparked by local attorney Brand Bobosky’s reading of a Smithsonian Magazine article about the citizens of Chamainus, British Columbia who resurrected their dying lumber mill town by creating an outdoor gallery of murals that subsequently drew tourists to the community. Bobosky immediately thought of how appropriate a similar cultural amenity would be for Naperville.

So the idea was pitched to the Naperville Chamber of Commerce and a $10,000 grant from the Illinois Arts Council was awarded, a board of directors was assembled and the city approved $30,000 for three locations. The city continues to fund the project, which now has $4 million of public art in place around the community.

Century Walk has partnered with School District 203, the Naperville Park District, the Naperville libraries and many private property owners to find spaces for the art. In fact, private money now accounts for 47 percent of Century Walk’s funding.

Two new pieces of artwork, on average, have been added each year. This year an artist from Wyoming has been commissioned to create a sculpture of a “laughing” Abraham Lincoln to be located in Central Park to commemorate an urban legend about him and the City’s founder and fellow state legislator, Joe Naper.

“This is still a passion of mine, even after all these years,” Bobosky said. “I love the idea that Naperville offers free public art that can be viewed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It is always accessible and that brings immense financial and cultural value to the business community and to Naperville’s citizens.”

City funding comes from its food and beverage tax, which means that 50 percent of the funding of this 501(c)3 corporation comes from visitors to Naperville, he added.

Alive Center

Alive is Naperville’s teen center. Centrally located behind Naperville North High School, Alive provides teens with a unique place to connect, discover and come alive. Their mission is to be a teen-led, teen-driven center, focused on empowering the youth of today to become the impassioned, resilient leaders of tomorrow.

The nonprofit organization offers free drop-in hours after school and over the summer, as well as a myriad of programs, classes and events, designed to build confident and resilient teens. They are all about new experiences and expanding minds, as well as learning important life skills.

On any given day at Alive, you can find teens enjoying unstructured art, dance and creative writing, taking part in open music events, teen-led tutoring, mentoring and clubs, as well as attending life skills classes on nutrition, healthy cooking and stress management or … just plain having fun, according to Kandice Henning, executive director and president of the board of directors of the Alive Center. Henning is a single mom who felt driven to offer guidance and fun to teens while teaching them important life skills and giving them a place to socialize.

The Alive Center opened in June 2015 and has evolved into a largely teen-led center where older teens mentor and teach skills to younger teens, particularly those who are at-risk for one reason or another.

“The Center is very unstructured because these kids are in school all day in a very structured environment, so that is not what they need after school. We just ask that they are respectful and clean up after themselves,” Henning said.

When it comes to the arts, teen center patrons may go into the studio and create whatever they wish, or they may follow particular projects offered. For instance, many made pumpkins during October. In addition, an upcycled clothing club meets twice a month. They have created costumes, headbands, flip flops and art bags, using recycled items.

There is also an Open Art Studio for families from 1 to 4 p.m., the second Saturday of each month during which an art teacher teaches teens and families how to do particular projects for $15 per person or $40 per family. And periodic open mic nights and teen concerts are also held.

The Alive Center, which is open from 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, as well as some Wednesday and Friday nights, is funded through local grants, facility rentals, corporate and individual gifts and fundraisers like the “Art Slam,” which is scheduled for May 12, 2018.

Musical Expressions of Illinois

Naperville has been privileged to have its own highly-rated music school since 1989 when Sue Good and her former partner, Kevin Reid, opened the school.

“We saw a need in Naperville for an excellent music school,” Good recalled. “I have a degree in piano performance and Kevin had a degree in composition and guitar, so we began by offering lessons in piano, guitar and voice.”

Today the school has burgeoned in size to 300 students with 27 teachers and is run by Good and her husband, Robert Slusarek. They teach piano, voice, guitar, ukulele, strings, drums, woodwinds, and brass. Students range in age from four to 84.

“The vast majority of our students are in grade school or middle school, but we welcome students of all ages,” Good said. “Some of our students travel quite a distance because they want to work with our exceptional music teachers.”

The majority of lessons run for half an hour, but intermediate and advanced students often opt for hour-long lessons. Lessons are $35 for a half hour session in their facility behind Naperville North High School.

Recitals are held twice a year, in the spring and at the holidays, in the Koten Chapel at North Central College. Students also have the opportunity to participate in vocal workshops, musical theater and rock ensembles that perform at Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora. Many students audition and perform in musical groups and productions, too.

Students also have the option of participating in the Musical Ladder program that motivates them to practice more. The use of periodic testing of knowledge and ability results in the awarding of certificates, wrist bands and eventually, personalized trophies. Students enjoy the recognition.

“We are very safety-conscious with windows and video cameras in all of our studios. In addition, all of our teachers and staff members are background checked,” Good said.

“Most of our faculty members are still performing in orchestras, bands and church ensembles or are teaching in local schools or colleges. All have bachelor’s degrees and many have master’s degrees, too,” Good added.

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