New Park Opens in Urbana
By Ryan Hagan
After more than two decades of planning and fundraising, a new park will be dedicated this Sunday at 5 p.m. just north of the Urbana City Building.
The park called “Art in the Park” was designed by Champaign-native John David Mooney, who has designed pieces for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the Vatican, and the Tribune Tower in Chicago among others.
The idea for the park began after Mooney won a city sculpture contest for the park’s space 22 years ago. Mooney said it was difficult to get initial support.
“There were a lot of oppositions at the beginning,” he said. “City council members objected. They didn’t like the idea of the sculpture.”
Today, the park is home to two of Mooney’s sculptures – “Spirit Tree” and “Falling Leaf.”
“I designed the entire thing so that it has integrity from beginning to end,” Mooney said. “It’s full of surprises – that walkway – every 5 feet it’s a different visual closure – so you’ve got a surprise – nothing remains the same,” Mooney said.
Mooney was inspired by residents’ backyard gardens and wanted to create a park that is distinctly American.
“We don’t have an American garden style,” Mooney said. “There’s English gardens; there’s French gardens; there’s Italian gardens, Chinese, Japanese – we all know what that shape and form of them are. So I’ve kind of personified the Champaign-Urbana backyard and put it in the city’s front yard – honoring the citizens of the community.”
“It's been an act of love on my part,” Mooney added. “I’ve been able to give back to this community which gave me my family, my friends, and my education.”
View a slideshow from Art in the Park: