Naperville unveils its dragonfly benches for this year’s Summer Sculpture Series

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Lots of fun is flying into downtown Naperville this summer, from dragonfly benches to new businesses to fun events.

Dragonfly benches scattered throughout the business district

On Friday, 19 brightly colored dragonfly benches arrived in downtown Naperville, scattered throughout the business district.

Each is sponsored by an area business or organization and has been painted with a unique design. Some, like the bench sponsored by Caton Commercial by artist Marianna Lisson Kuhn, offer a nod to Naperville itself.

“You can see Water Street on there, you can see the “N” building, which is just iconic as you’re driving down I-88 that spells Naperville. You can see the famous Naperville barn. You can see different pieces of work, artwork, and the famous covered bridge. Just everything that she did, as you know, background and history of Naperville, you just see it added in there, and she just did such a fantastic job,” said Danielle Tufano, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance (DNA).

The benches are part of the annual summer sculpture series, courtesy of the DNA. The group has been bringing unique sculptures in shapes ranging from hearts to book benches to sailboats to the downtown Naperville area since 2012.

Sponsors work with the artists directly to craft their benches

“So how this program works is the sponsors are technically responsible for working with the artists directly. So we’ve had artists from the Alive Center, we’ve had artists from North Central College, we’ve had artists from different high schools,” said Tufano. “That’s what I love about this program is that there’s such a wide variety of different artists.”

Tufano says the planning starts early for each summer series, with the potential for something exciting already in the works for next year.

“There’s a big company that I’m already talking to,” Tufano said. “There’s a huge idea potentially in the works for sculptures next year that I’m already trying to get rights to, to do our sculptures next year,” Tufano said. 

Sculptures align with “Flying Into Summer” theme

This year’s sculptures fit perfectly with the DNA’s summer theme, “Flying Into Summer.”

“So dragonflies, they kind of symbolize rebirth and growth and change, and so the marketing committee got together, and we talked about what downtown Naperville is going through,” said Tufano.

Reflecting on the ongoing streetscape project in downtown Naperville, with infrastructure improvements, widened sidewalks and additions like LED lights, the committee thought the symbolism of the dragonflies were a perfect fit.

The benches are one more draw for the downtown area, with the public able to seek them out on their own or with the help of a handy map.

“Everything is on our website. Click on the word events, you can see all the details there, you can download the map so you can bring your family or yourself down to find all 19 of them,” said Tufano.

Businesses are flying into town as well

But benches aren’t the only thing flying into downtown. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s new restaurant, Ramsay’s Kitchen, opened on Tuesday. Located at 39 W. Jefferson Avenue, the spot has already become a popular downtown Naperville destination.

“We have so many great locally owned and operated businesses. But then we have wonderful national chains like Ramsay’s Kitchen that help bring people to our downtown. And the folks that work at Ramsay’s Kitchen are local.” 

After 18 months in the works, Tufano said seeing the restaurant finally realized here in Naperville is a great boon to the community and a nod to its reputation.

“I think it just goes to show that he and his team realize what a special community this is. That it’s rich in, in culture, rich in, it’s a great place for culinary action; you know, you don’t necessarily need to go to Chicago for great dining, a great dining experience,” said Tufano. 

Some other businesses to look out for this summer include the newly reopened now traditional Starbucks on Jefferson Avenue, the Arhaus Studio opening at the Main Street Promenade, and the Face Foundrie opening later this summer.  

Summer events are coming to downtown Naperville

And there are also upcoming events planned for downtown Naperville that Tufano says the public should note on their calendars.

“We have our spring wine walk coming up this Sunday, which is really exciting,” said Tufano, adding, “We also have our downtown Naperville car show over Father’s Day weekend Saturday of Father’s Day weekend along Jackson Avenue, so it’s great to bring Dad, or your family, or your friends down to see some really cool cars.”

And some extra surprises may be ahead.

“There’s some new events that we’re trying to plan; we’re waiting for the thumbs up from our mayor,” said Tufano.

But it shouldn’t take a special event to get folks to downtown Naperville, Tufano says.

“The shopping and dining in downtown Naperville is, is enough on its own, let alone the fun things we have going on,” said Tufano. 

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