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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

Outdoor Art Is Sprouting In Freeport

Area for future sculptures.

Outdoor art is blooming in a northern Illinois city. Two new permanent sculptures will be installed at Freeport’s Arts Plaza.

The civic art space is currently under construction. Jessica Modica, the arts plaza director for the Freeport Art Museum, said the city needed an updated outdoor art space. 

“We haven't really been able to build anything substantial that is specifically for the community at large for over a decade now,” she said. “And so that gives our community a little bit or a lot of hope.”

She also said the downtown location is very important because it is between some major cultural establishments.

"To the north, there, we've got three kind of cultural amenities with the library, the Debate Square and the Union Dairy. And then to the south of us, we've had some really great reinvestment going on in the downtown," she said.

A total of 35 artists across the nation put in submissions for creating the sculptures.

The two artists chosen to complete the sculptures are Colorado artist Maureen Hearty and Georgia artist Corrina Sephora. Hearty was selected for the first commission and Sephora was selected for the second.

There were three other finalists for the second commission. Modica expressed that it was extremely hard to choose the best one because all of the artists presented outstanding proposals. She said three of them, including Sephora, live in other states and that they all visited Freeport. 

Modica shared that temporary fixtures will also be added to the space. One includes a mosaic piece by Freeport native Melinda Cook.

The permanent sculptures are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Hearty’s commission was also underwritten by Sally and Dan Noble, and their friends and family. This was done in memory of their son, Jack.     

Modica explained that the sculptures are only a piece of the overall construction at the civic space and that art is the heart of most of the updates.

“We have something called an art screen. Now it’s a huge kind of… two screens that will run along the bulk of the plaza that will have all types of art that changes periodically,” she said.

Modica added that this includes murals. She described the upcoming new space as an outdoor art exhibition space.

A performance stage, a splash pad for children and a sidewalk infrastructure have already been completed.  

Modica explained that the plaza has provided some relief for people during the pandemic. She said the splash pad is probably going to be the biggest part that they are looking forward to this summer.

  • Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.

Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.
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