Art: What is it Good For? | Peoria’s newest sculpture gallery is coming this spring

Art What Is It Good For


A walk in the park is going to get more interesting this spring. On Nov. 20, by a unanimous vote, the Peoria Park Board accepted the executive staff recommendation to allow a three-year outdoor sculpture walk development in Donovan Park. The plan was created and will move forward because of a small team consisting of a sculptor, a naturalist, project planners, visionaries, artists and community activists — David Pittman, Fisher Stolz, Sharon and John Amdall, Bruce Brown, and us (the Leunigs).

The team is united in the belief that public sculpture in an outdoor landscape has special attraction and value. Our personal motivation is that Donovan Sculpture Garden will serve as a symbol of well-being. A sculpture garden can be a place where story telling, imagination, innovation and creativity bloom. It can be a place of reflection and wonder. It can be a place where aesthetics, education and exercise blend. A sculpture garden is a great place for families to enjoy art without the pressure of inhibiting children’s natural sense of exploration.

Art and nature are healing forces. That’s a bold statement backed up by a wealth of research. A sculpture garden is the perfect blend of the two. Donovan Sculpture Garden will be a break from the hubbub of modern life. It will provide a chance to breathe in fresh air, get a bit of exercise, and be inspired by the creativity that abounds in our area. Donovan Park is the perfect location.

Fisher Stolz is a sculptor exhibiting his work nationally and is a tenured professor at Bradley University. He is the team’s subject matter expert.

“Many sculpture park layouts are similar to golf course designs,” Fisher said. “Sculptures surround a primary building and long walkable meadows that lead to sculptures in the distance. As one approaches a sculpture, others are revealed a short walk away. At Donovan, Cyd’s in the Park is a great anchor. From that location, green areas are visible 150 to 500 yards apart with rolling paths connecting them. The built-in design of the park is exceptional for exhibiting sculpture and further engaging local visitors and tourists.”

Sharon and John Amdall, who were involved in founding Sculpture Walk Peoria and the Peoria Heights Sculpture Walk, are lending their expertise and experience to the project.

“We are thrilled that the Peoria Park District Board of Trustees approved the Donovan Sculpture Garden with six sculptures planned for the first year,” John said. “We are looking forward to seeing how the sculptures bring new life to the park,” Sharon said.

David Pittman, former park board member and president of the Friends of Rocky Glen, and Bruce Brown, restoration team member for the renovation of the 1866 “Shaft” Civil War Monument at Springdale Cemetery and an exhibitor with 22VA (Veteran Artists) are spearheading this project.

Pittman said, “I got involved in Donovan Sculpture Garden because art should be enjoyable for everyone, just like going to a park. If a family goes to Donovan and walks their dog, throws a frisbee around, and makes a few comments about the sculpture they see there, I will be satisfied.”

To learn more about the plans for a sculpture garden and to meet the team, please join us from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at Cyd’s in the Park. The event is free. Donations for the Donovan Sculpture Garden can be made by sending a check to Peoria Park District Foundation DSG (Donovan Sculpture Garden), Bonnie Noble Center, 1125 W. Lake Ave., Peoria, IL 61614.


“Moonbench” by sculptor Fisher Stolz will be one of the first pieces to be installed in the Donovan Sculpture Garden. Shown here is the artist’s rendering of Moonbench outside the Northmoor Observatory.

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