The Story Behind the Naperville Ornament

Naperville Ornament
Donate Today

The Naperville Ornament

You may have spotted some posts on social media about the Naperville Ornament and wondered who the artist is.

“When I started this I said to my friends, ‘I don’t care for anyone to know who made this.’ But now realizing how tight-knit our community is in Naperville, people do want to know who the artist is,” said Naperville Ornament designer, Michael Notardonato. “I didn’t want anyone to think I was avoiding the question, I just didn’t think people would even care.”

Notardonato was born and raised in Naperville, attending Naperville School District 203 schools including Naperville North High School. After graduating, he went to college to pursue a career in acting.

He was in New York City working on a new musical when the coronavirus pandemic hit and everything shut down. That’s when he returned to his hometown.

“I’ve never had to work another job as an actor which I don’t take for granted. A lot of people have to make ends meet other ways between gigs. But I had to figure something out,” said Notardonato. “And I don’t really have any other skill but I’ve always been a visual artist as well. I paint, I decorate cakes. I spent a large amount of this pandemic visiting my family. I was walking along the Riverwalk one day and I was looking at the Carillon and the covered bridge, and the red Landforms sculpture and I was like ‘why doesn’t Naperville have its own ornament?'”

These first thoughts were going through his mind a couple of months ago and that’s when Notardonato began drawing drafts and creating concept designs, which eventually led him to working with a manufacturer in Massachusetts to “bring [his] design to life.”

The ornament features other Naperville landmarks including the Downtown Naperville Main Street signs, Saints Peter & Paul Church, and Rotary Hill.

The Inspiration

Creating an ornament was a way for Notardonato to give back to the place he grew up in, while giving him something to do during the time he’s not able to work. Its creation was also inspired by his mom, who always purchased an ornament whenever they visited a new place while on vacation.

She told him, “This year, we have no trips. No one can really travel. No one can take those vacations. It’s been a hard year for everybody so why not just enjoy where we are right now and commemorate where we are right now, which is Naperville,” said Notardonato. “That’s what I hope people take out of it, that they can remember how amazing their hometown is.”

His site launched September 10 and the last day to order the Naperville Ornament is October 12.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.

photo credit: Michael Notardonato