Dick Locher, a longtime Naperville resident and legendary cartoonist known for both his Dick Tracy strips and his political cartoons, is helping create the statue of Capt. Joseph Naper that will be placed on the founder’s homestead this summer.
Bryan Ogg, curator of research for the Heritage Society’s Naper Settlement museum, called Locher’s involvement in the project a “natural union.” Locher, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has spent four decades living in Naperville and working for the Chicago Tribune. He just recently retired from political cartooning.
But the 84-year-old’s passion for art has not waned, and he said he was happy to take on the project to commemorate Naper, who founded the city in 1831…
Locher visited Naper’s homestead site at Jefferson Avenue and Mill Street and researched the 1830s before making sketches of the statue. He had little to go on when creating Naper’s likeness, but said he was determined to make it a piece that would stand the test of time.
Whenever I visit downtown Naperville, I’m impressed with the number of statues and public art pieces. The downtown isn’t that large but the public art is prominent. Here are just two examples:
To hear Naperville tell it, the art was made possible by a concerted effort known as the Naperville Century Walk:
Genevieve looks up at us from her bench outside of Barnes and Noble on Washington Street. The Cat and the Hat practically takes our hand and strolls with us into Nichols Library. Officer Friendly, known to us today as Mayor Pradel, reminds the children of Naperville to be careful on one way streets ensuring the safety of our town’s youngest citizens. We are reminded of uncommon valor when we gaze upon five of Naperville’s most highly decorated servicemen from World War II immortalized in the bronze sculpture Veterans’ Valor in the plaza next to the YMCA.
Each of these works is just one of the 40+ pieces of public art that make up Naperville’s Century Walk.
In 1996, Century Walk began as a public art initiative featuring murals, mosaics, reliefs, mobiles, and sculptures throughout downtown Naperville. Each of the first 30 pieces in some way represents the history of Naperville during the twentieth century through people, places and events. It is a fascinating way to portray the history of Naperville through public art. Several of the last pieces were not limited to historical themes as they expand the body of artwork throughout Naperville.
See a map of the variety of art here. All of it adds a nice touch to a downtown that made quite a comeback in the 1990s when it attracted national retail stores and a number of restaurants. Many of the pieces, such as the statue of Genevieve Towsley or of Harold Moser, reference small-town Naperville which existed into the 1960s. I suspect many Naperville residents may not even know the characters referenced (for example, Genevieve Towsley wrote a newspaper column about local history for several decades) or much about Joseph Naper who came from Ohio and served for a number of years in the Illinois legislature. The art both enhances the public spaces and helps local residents and visitors, if they read the plaques, understand how much the suburban community has changed.