“The Gate,” a limestone sculpture made up of two obelisks with rounded tips meeting in the middle, has been in storage for the past seven years. But, last week, it came out of the storage as the village installed it at Mills Park’s southern entrance.

The sculpture was created by artist Michael D. Brown. Originally displayed as part of 2001 art show at Navy Pier, it was subsequently purchased by the village and installed on Lake Street, near Harlem Avenue, until street renovations led it to be moved into storage. Since then, Oak Park Area Arts Council has been trying to get it on public display again.

Under the intergovernmental agreement, which the Park District of Oak Park Board of Commissioners is scheduled to approve on Nov. 21, the park district will be responsible for maintaining and repairing it. But if the park district ever decides to move it, the village will have the option of retaking ownership. 

“The Gate” was one of the two sculptures acquired by John Lukehart, who at the time was a member of the Oak Park Area Arts Council. He went to the Navy Pier show and found out that, after the show was over, all the sculptures would either be sold or available for rent to municipalities for a year. 

“John Lukehart and Leslie Jones and Margot McMahon [herself a sculptor] went to the exhibition and used their own money to bring two pieces to the Oak Park community,” arts council Executive Director Camille Wilson White told the Journal in 2007. 

The village subsequently bought the sculpture outright.

Since “The Gate” went into storage, Wilson White has been trying to find a new home for it. Park district Executive Director Jan Arnold told park commissioners at the Nov. 7 meeting that Wilson White approached her to see if the agency had any interest in displaying it.

Arnold consulted Altamanu, a Chicago landscape architecture firm, and they suggested putting it in Mills Park. Putting it in the southwest corner of the park, she said, fit well with the existing plans.

“If you look at the [comprehensive plan] a number of residents requested more art in that park,” Arnold said.

The village paid Brown to refurbish the sculpture and covered the installation costs. While the agreement isn’t technically in force yet, Arnold explained that they had to do the installation last week because Brown would soon be heading to Florida and they didn’t want to wait until the temperatures get too cold.

Under the terms of the agreement, if the park district ever decides not to display the sculpture in public, the village would have a right to regain the ownership and remove the sculpture. But if the village doesn’t take any action, the park district will retain ownership, and will “have sole discretion regarding the future of the sculpture.”

Commissioner Kassie Porreca said that “The Gate” was a good addition to Mills Park.

“I saw the pictures — it looks much better at the park than on Lake Street,” she said.

And “The Gate” got support on the park district’s official Facebook page.

“Just wanted to say that the sculpture in Mills Park is awesome,” wrote Marlene Scott.

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Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Growing Community Media newspapers in 2012, then from 2015...