Duna is the name of the large, grayish bronze horse set out in 1998 to graze in Oldberg Park, the triangular green tract where Elgin Road, Clark Street and Sherman Avenue come together. By well-known and much-in-demand contemporary artist Deborah Butterfield, this sculpture was created and cast in bronze from pieces of found wood, as are most of her sculptures.
The accompanying plaque says the artwork was given “in memory of Catherine R. Stallings, for her love of the City of Evanston.” Stallings was born in horse country, Louisville, Kentucky. Unable to go to college, she worked hard and saved her money, moving alone to a job in Chicago at the end of World War II. She moved to Evanston when she married Jim Stallings, a man 18 years her senior and apparently quite successful. The Stallings lived on South Boulevard from 1935 until 1993.
In her will, Stallings made generous bequests to several area cultural organizations, including the Evanston Public Library. She also allocated funds for “art and the beautification of Evanston.”
Oldberg Park was redesigned as part of a Downtown Redevelopment project, with James Gamble, landscape architect and president of Land Design Collaborative, the prime consultant. The cost of the sculpture, $173,500, came from Stallings’ estate.
Gamble and his wife, Donna, were neighbors and friends to Stallings. Working with the director of the then-Block Gallery (now the Block Museum) and leading arts organizations in the city, including the Zola Lieberman Gallery in Chicago, they sought a work of art to install in Oldberg Park that would honor Stallings’ memory and be an “image of singular strength and beauty.”
Their search for an artwork led them to Butterfield, an internationally known artist who has a studio in Hawaii as well as on her farm in Bozeman, Montana, where she spends summers. There she raises horses and practices dressage, as well as creating her noted sculpture.
About her work, Butterfield said, “I first used the horse image as a metaphorical substitute for myself. [My] first horses were huge plaster mares whose presence was extremely gentle, calm. They were at rest, and in complete opposition to the raging warhorse (stallion) that represents most equine sculpture.” (From her Wikipedia entry.)
Duna was created in 1997 and installed in 1998.
Butterfield’s images are intended as a feminist statement: “I wanted to do these big, beautiful mares that were as strong and imposing as stallions but capable of creation and nourishing life. It was a very personal feminist statement.”
Maintenance of public artworks has become a big issue for the City of Evanston, according to Chantal Healey, current Chair of the Public Art Working Group on the Evanston Arts Council.
Assistant City Manager Tasheik Kerr has confirmed that an additional gift of $20,000 for maintenance was included with the sculpture. It was put in an interest-bearing, reserved account and now totals $30,882.53. Would that all public sculptures had such a fund!
Meanwhile, Duna stands on a rise in the park where she can contentedly overlook the busy goings on at the northern approach to downtown Evanston. With an appreciative audience and such a maintenance fund, she will probably stay there a very long time.
Earlier articles in this series by Gay Riseborough: