Rockford Park District selects Colorado artist to paint Nicholas Conservatory mural
By Jim Hagerty
The Rockford Park District has selected an artist to install a mural in the lobby of the Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens.
The $75,000 contract was publicly awarded last week to William Hueg of Westminster, Colo.
While Hueg has an extensive resume in sculpture, painting and decorative glass work, whether he met the initial qualifications included in the park district’s invitation to artists has raised some questions.
According to the Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens Call for Artist Entries, preference was given to artists who satisfied at least one of three criteria.
The invitation states preference was given to artists who were born in Illinois; graduated from an Illinois college, university or art school; and have had a studio in Illinois for not less than a year.
As stated in William Hueg’s biographical information, the artist was born in New York, and studied in Minnesota.
Twenty-seven artists answered the invitation. Four finalists, three from Illinois, were given specific assignments and asked to submit digital files of their work.
One of the finalists was Rockford muralist, Mark Adamany.
Adamany is known for several pieces of public work, including well-known murals inside Big Al’s Bar, the city of Belvidere, downtown Rockford and throughout the country.
A Rockford College graduate, Adamany owns Adamany Art & Design and has won 13 national awards for his work.
According to Adamany, he was notified that he was not awarded the contract Dec. 18.
“I know Bill Hueg,” Adamany said. “He’s great. I respect his work. But, I was surprised that the winner was not at least from Illinois.”
The mural will depict a history of the Rock River–past, present and future– something Adamany says he’s familiar with and would have enjoyed being part of visually telling the story.
“I literally live across the river (from the conservatory),” Adamany said. “I know the history of the river, sure. I used to ice skate right there. I know about the late 19th century amusement park that was near here. What better than to have a person from Illinois to do this?”
The mural project is overseen by the Rockford Park District Capital Planning and Asset Management Department.
Deputy Director Laura Pigatti Williamson said the process that led the district to Hueg was an extensive one.
“We went through an exhaustive process to select an artist,” Williamson said. “At the end of the day, we communicated with hundreds of people and cast a very wide net.”
Work from applicants was reviewed by a jury of area artists, collectors and enthusiasts, which trimmed the field to four.
Hueg, Williamson said, emerged as the artist the jury and the park district board felt would best complete the project.
“His body of work, based on what the jury saw, was what the district was looking for,” she said. “To be clear, the invitation was open to all artists. And, we did give preference to those who met the Illinois criteria. That was to encourage local artists to apply.”
Hueg also is working on the Lincoln Highway Scenic Byway project, a collection of murals that stretches through more than 40 Illinois communities from Aurora to Sterling.
“For the record, people shouldn’t think Bill has no ties to Illinois, because he does,” Williamson added. “And, he’s also done work in Belvidere.”
The Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens is scheduled to open this fall. The project was sparked by a $2.2 million gift from Bill, Dan and Ab Nicholas, in honor of their parents, William and Ruby Nicholas.
The family envisioned the facility to be a community gathering place and catalyst for future development along the Rock River.
The mural will be displayed around the perimeter of the lobby wall at an approximate height of 8-feet, 6-inches from the finished floor.
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