Chemainus murals inspire town

  • May. 30, 2011 4:00 p.m.

There are not a lot of things that link the Island community of Chemainus with Naperville, Il.To drive there, it would take more than a day and a half to cover the more than 3,500 km separating the two towns.In fact, there are few similarities between Chemainus and Naperville, with a population of 141,853 around 50 km from Chicago.That all changed in 1994 thanks to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine.Naperville lawyer W. Brand Bobosky was reading about the quaint town of Chemainus and how its mural project was helping revitalize the town.After reading about the Little Town that Did, Bobosky helped set in motion Century Walk.“From that I contacted the town, I got a video … that told about the murals and their celebration,” said Bobosky.“I thought maybe something like that could work in our town.”While Chemainus’ initiative, started by Karl Schutz, may have been to drive tourism, Bobosky said he was hoping to complement some other initiatives in Naperville.The City of Naperville, to celebrate 150 years of the town in 1981, started to embrace some of its resources such as the DuPage River. They started a Riverwalk that now stretches for a few kilometres.“This town, like a lot of towns, had turned its back on the river and then we kind of recognized it is a gift,” said Bobosky.That Riverwalk joins with a distinct section of town known as Naper Settlement – a reconstruction of life in the 1800s complete with blacksmith, post office and homes.Having murals and sculptures depicting daily life over the years seemed like the perfect fit for Naperville.“We have the natural beauty of the Riverwalk, the historical beauty of the settlement and this would be the artistic tripod leg.”All of the work is plaqued telling people about the artist and the meaning behind the piece.Bobosky said the Century Walk has been a slow build. People appreciate the work around town and enjoy the art, but many don’t know about the movement.“You’d think that after 15+ years and adding all the time that maybe there would be a little more recognition. I think it is getting somewhat into the public consciousness.”Naperville’s Century Walk includes not only murals, but several sculptures and mosaics around town. The artists, said Bobosky, come from around the U.S. and have had pieces sent all over the world. Naperville, too, has just published a book last year of some of the more than 35 pieces around town. To learn more about Century Walk and see the life it has taken on, visit www.centurywalk.org.