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Updated: May 10, 2019

Pollinator Pillars make for mosaic masterpiece

Burton debuts new public art in Ottawa

By Brent BaderEmailFollowApril 17, 2019

Many of Susan Burton’s artistic creations have captured the awe of spectators, but her latest mosaic creation breaches a personal milestone.

It took a number of public works employees, and a crane, to install her “Pollinator Pillars” along the city’s Art Walk, just north of Canal and Madison streets on Tuesday.

She notes the use of a crane to install an art piece has been on her artistic checklist.

“You’re in an elite area on your own (when you use a crane to construct it), and that’s a big deal in my mosaic world,” Burton said.

Burton was hugged and lauded with praise from fellow artists, business owners and city officials during an unveiling ceremony on Wednesday.

“It tells a story, it teaches, it amuses, it does all the things that art is supposed to do,” said Mayor Bob Eschbach.

But she’ll be quick to tell you it’s not just her art project but also the community’s, as six art sessions were held last summer in which people could add mosaics to the final design.

“We were basically mobbed by people that wanted to be a part of this project,” Burton said.

The beautiful, large pillars reach toward the sky, and the images are meant to bring awareness to threatened species, such as monarch butterflies, bees and the flowers they need to survive. It also complements the city’s nearby butterfly garden, created by University of Illinois Extension master gardeners and Ottawa Garden Club volunteers.

Some aspects of the pillars, such as the butterflies, are slightly raised to give another dimension to the project. The entire project is estimated to have taken 600 hours to create.

Artists who helped create the pillars are encouraged to stop by and try to find their piece of the project — but don’t fret if you can’t find yours. Burton said some of the butterflies, bees and flowers were not used, but she’s hopeful they’ll be placed on benches to match the pillars.

For her next project, she’s working on something on a large scale in Princeton and is looking at opportunities in Streator.

But she expects to have more to offer Ottawa as well.

She’s in the early design stages for her next project with a Rotary Club and remains coy about what shape it will take.

“Footsteps. I want to do footsteps next,” she said. “That’s the hint.”

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