Richard Hunt: University Park sculpture park presents Juneteenth Summer Solstice Celebration

Jessi Virtusio, Chicago Tribune, June 9, 2022


“Yes! For Lady Day,” the centerpiece of Governors State University’s Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, is a tribute to Billie Holiday, which helps connect it to the Juneteenth Summer Solstice Celebration.


The outdoor event, which debuted in 2021 at the park also known as theNate, takes place on June 18 in University Park, rain or shine.


“It’s a really important holiday, it’s definitely of interest to the community that we serve and it aligns with the mission and the purpose of theNate,” said Jeff Stevenson, director and curator of Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park.


Juneteenth Summer Solstice Celebration includes a 1 p.m. processional to “Yes! For Lady Day,” which Mark di Suvero created with a railroad tank car, salvaged steel I-beams and cable over two summers while the artist lived in a farmhouse on what was to become Governors State University’s campus.


“It’s celebratory and abstract but definitely a connection to the artist Billie Holiday and both her beautiful artistry and her tragic life,” said Stevenson about the blues singer.


The event includes performances by Andrea Billups and her jazz band called Cuz’n, which is based in Joliet, and Chicago’s Acme Missionary Baptist Church Gospel Choir, which was named best church choir in America in Verizon Wireless’ 2008 How Sweet The Sound competition.


Also, a quartet from Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra performs from 4 to 5 p.m. when Governors State University’s Visual Arts Gallery is open.


“There’s some really exciting components,” said Stevenson, director and curator of the Visual Arts Gallery.


Spoken word will be presented by Flossmoor resident Jeanne Miller, a teacher and English Department chair at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, and Jataun Rollins, an author, poet, therapist and speaker. They both participated in the inaugural Juneteenth Summer Solstice Celebration.


Gatherings include live music and spoken word from 3 to 4 p.m. at “Illinois Landscape #5″ aka “French Fries,” which artist John Henry made with welded and painted steel after being commissioned by the Governors State University Foundation with assistance from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Juneteenth Summer Solstice Celebration concludes from 5 to 6 p.m. with a walking tour of the park’s two pieces by sculptor Richard Hunt, “Large Planar Hybrid” and “Outgrown Pyramid II,” as well as other artists’ work in the collection totaling 31 pieces.


“Richard Hunt is one of the most important artists in the collection. He’s a regional Chicago treasure and a national hero. We want to share his work and vision,” said Stevenson of Flossmoor.


“He has a new piece that he’s doing for the Obama Presidential Center. He did a piece for the Ida B. Wells memorial in Bronzeville. He’s very well-known and prolific. He’s part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection. He’s a sweetheart and we’re hoping he’ll be able to come.”


Juneteenth Summer Solstice Celebration is partly sponsored by Southland Arts and features a free barbecue by drewBBQ & Sausage of Crown Point, Indiana, for attendees who registered by June 10.


Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating, water bottles, umbrellas for shade and shoes for walking on grass paths at Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, which was named best sculpture park in the USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice awards for 2021.

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