Local artist all a-buzz to paint downtown Naperville summer sculptures

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Giant insects and mollusks will be buzzing and crawling into downtown Naperville at the beginning of June, but not in the “cicada-geddon” way.

“These are more cartoon-like and whimsical,” said Naperville artist, Marianne Lisson Kuhn.

Marianne Lisson Kuhn paints downtown Naperville summer sculptures

Longtime Naperville artist Marianne Lisson Kuhn has pulled out her paintbrushes yet again to help bring the downtown Naperville summer sculptures to life. She has painted at least two sculptures for every set since the beginning of the tradition many years ago.

“They’re really fun because typically I paint two-dimensional and a flat surface and it’s kind of fun to paint something three-dimensional like this,” said Lisson Kuhn. 

She’s painted dragonfly benches, giant hearts, and dogs in the past…but this year she’s all a-buzz about the sculptures she’s taking on… a bee sponsored by Magnitech Cybersecurity, and a caterpillar by Caton Commercial.

A buzzing bee

“So the bee sculpture, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the bottom, other than the sponsor wanted his dogs in there. So I immediately thought of the idea to turn the beehive into a doghouse,” said Lisson Kuhn.

She added in some flowers to give it an authentic backyard feel.

“Then he wondered if I could possibly put his three children in. I was trying to think, ‘How am I going to put three kids on a bee?’ ‘What are they going to be doing?’,” said Lisson Kuhn.

The answer? Fly a kite. On one side they send it up to the skies…but on the other, they drop it as they discover a surprise.

“Then all of a sudden they look up in the sky and there’s the bee flying with the dogs on its back. So it’s kind of a whimsical idea of the dogs taking flight,” said Lisson Kuhn.

The crawling caterpillar

For the caterpillar, Lisson Kuhn painted a treehouse neighborhood, following the same playful direction as the bee. 

“It was really fun because I just built them using some images for reference, but also using my imagination to put caterpillars in each scene doing something. They’re having a tea party under the mushroom in front of this house, and this one, he’s reading The Hungry Caterpillar,” said Lisson Kuhn.

On the base she created a flowing river with a bridge leading to some summer fun…caterpillar-style. 

“I had to put in five dogs and a cat because, in their office between them, they have five dogs and a cat. I decided to have a summer camp in a treehouse, and the staff leader is a caterpillar, and he’s leading the day camp for the day,” said Lisson Kuhn.

Downtown Naperville summer sculptures coming soon

These two critters alongside an additional 16 painted by other artists will be coming to downtown Naperville after Memorial Day. The Downtown Naperville Alliance will share a map on its website to help people locate every sculpture. Viewers can also go online to vote for their favorite.

“I think the bugs will be a big hit because they’re so whimsical and they are friendly looking and approachable,” said Lisson Kuhn. “I just think it’ll be a really fun thing for everybody to see.”

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