PEORIA HEIGHTS — Though he had followed the reincarnation of his sculpture “Mobius Triangle” through photographs, artist Bruce White saw the work in person for the first time Monday morning, a moment made more dramatic by its unveiling.
The sculpture, which stands outside the Peoria Heights City Hall, was covered by 60 yards of canvas decorated by art students from Peoria Heights High School.
“We did it in four days,” said art teacher Lindsay Cocquit. “Eighty-five students participated.”
Cocquit had just finished a unit on the principles of design with her Art 1 class, so she asked them to sketch a design on the canvas. When they were finished, her painting students stepped in to provide color.
“Then on Thursday and Friday it was not getting done fast enough, so I pulled in my ceramics students,” she said.
The end result was draped across White’s sculpture early Monday morning to prepare for the unveiling around 11 a.m. A boom lift helped workers remove the cover from the 20-foot-tall sculpture.
White described the moment as ‘great fun.’
“It’s all cleaned up. Like buying a new suit,” he said of the sculpture’s new paint job. Originally the work was unpainted. White built the sculpture in the 1970s, and it had not been displayed in many years. Along with a shiny coat of blue paint, the sculpture got a new flared base which accentuated the original design while adding three or four feet to the height.
The piece was plucked out of the junk pile behind the sculptor’s DeKalb studio by John and Sharon Amdall, Washington residents who purchased “Mobius Triangle” and the five other works now on display in Peoria Heights. The pair heard that White, a long-time Northern Illinois University art professor who retired in 1996, was moving to Florida and selling his studio in DeKalb. The Amdalls are public art advocates who have donated a number of sculptures displayed in central Illinois. They sensed an opportunity in White’s impending move.
“Big sculpture is hard to sell, and they can’t move it to Florida,” said Sharon Amdall.
Ultimately the Amdalls purchased some of White’s favorite pieces.
“These were the ones he didn’t want to sell,” she said.
Peoria Heights now has more Bruce White sculptures on display than any other city in the world.
White talked about his work during the news conference in the Peoria Heights City Hall Monday morning. Photographs of the six sculptures were displayed next to the podium so White could do a virtual sculpture walk without leaving the room.
“For that one I found some scrap metal and I got my buddies over and pushed it to see how high we could make it,” said White of “Impulse,” a sculpture on display outside Trefzger’s Bakery on Prospect Road.
White spoke of his work in simple terms, emphasizing the importance of having fun in the creative process.
“I’m just playing. If you want to be an artist, you just play,” he said.
White directed his comments to the many Peoria Heights High School students attending the event. A long-time teacher, White inspires creativity before teaching the more difficult — and possibly intimidating — skills required to create large-scale public sculpture.
For Cocquit, the opportunity to introduce her students to a famous sculptor was huge.
“It was an honor to be a part if this project,” she said. “They don’t get introduced to many people living as full time artists.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.