Butterfield’s bronze horse grazes in memory of the Evanston philanthropist

duna is the name of the large, greyish bronze horse that was sent to pasture in 1998 in Oldberg Park, the triangular green tract where Elgin Road, Clark Street and Sherman Avenue meet. By a well-known and sought-after contemporary artist Deborah Butterfield, This sculpture, like most of her sculptures, was made from found pieces of wood and cast in bronze.

The accompanying plaque states that the artwork was given “in memory of Catherine R. Stallings, for her love of the town of Evanston.” Stallings was born in Horse Country, Louisville, Kentucky. Unable to go to college, she worked hard and saved her money by moving to Chicago alone for a job 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 to 1993.

A plaque explains that duna reminiscent of Catherine R. Stallings. Recognition: Gay Riseborough

In her will, Stallings made generous bequests to several regional cultural organizations, including the Evanston Public Library. She also provided 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, as the lead consultant. The cost of the sculpture, $173,500, came from the Stallings estate.

Gamble and his wife, Donna, were neighbors and friends of Stallings. Working with the director of what was then the Block Gallery (now the Block Museum) and the city’s leading arts organizations, including Chicago’s Zola Lieberman Gallery, they searched for an artwork to be installed in Oldberg Park that would honor the memory of Stalling’s being a “Image of unique strength and beauty”.

Debora Butterfield

Her search for an artwork led her to Butterfield, an internationally known artist who has a studio in Hawaii and on her farm in Bozeman, Montana, where she spends the summers. There she breeds horses, trains in dressage and creates her well-known sculpture.

Of her work, Butterfield said, “I first used the horse image as a metaphorical substitute for myself. [My] The first horses were huge plaster mares whose presence was extremely gentle and calm. They were at rest and in complete contrast to the rampaging war horse (stallion) that most horse sculptures depict.” (From their Wikipedia entry.)

duna was created in 1997 and installed in 1998.

Butterfield’s images are intended as a feminist statement: “I wanted to make these big, beautiful mares who are as strong and imposing as stallions, but capable of creating and nurturing life. It was a very personal feminist statement.”

According to Chantal Healey, current chair of the Evanston Arts Council’s Public Art Working Group, the maintenance of public artworks has become a major concern for the City of Evanston.

Deputy City Manager Tasheik Kerr has confirmed that the sculpture came with an additional gift of $20,000 for upkeep. It has been deposited into an interest-bearing reserved account and now totals $30,882.53. If only all public sculptures had such a fund!

In the meantime, duna stands on a knoll in the park, contentedly overlooking the hustle and bustle of the northern gateway to downtown Evanston. With an appreciative public and such an upkeep, she will probably stay there for a very long time.


Previous articles in this series by Gay Riseborough:

Haven School sculptures by Mary Anderson Clark illustrate public artworks by women in Evanston.

To “the children of the world”: Glenna Goodacre’s sculpture celebrates Rotary’s fight against polio.

Fire Station #1 goes with the flow of Aqua Vita.

Shore Bird could soar higher at the Ecology Center.

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