Boneyard Creek Improvements Project Public Art
The Boneyard Creek is the primary waterway (5,311 acre watershed) that runs through the cities of Urbana and Champaign, and the University of Illinois campus. The creek eventually feeds into the Saline Branch drainage ditch north of Downtown Urbana. Within the urbanized area, the Boneyard Creek has historically been covered or confined to a narrower sheet piled section to accommodate development. The City of Urbana sees potential to turn the Boneyard Creek into an amenity for the downtown environment and began a Master Plan process in 2006. The Boneyard Creek Improvements Project will implement the recommendations of the Master Plan for Creek Segment 3 from Griggs Street to Broadway Avenue, creating a pedestrian-friendly urban park in downtown Urbana.
Permanent public art elements for the Boneyard Creek Improvements Project have been designed by Seattle artist Jack Mackie, who was selected through a Request for Qualifications process. Mr. Mackie has many years of experience creating public art projects, such as King Street Center Plaza in Seattle, WA and Ross’ Landing in Chattanooga, TN. His work emphasizes creating natural environments within urban space and expressing local histories, both of which were identified by the public as priorities for public art in the Boneyard Creek project.
For the Boneyard Creek Improvements Project, Mr. Mackie has focused public art enhancements to the structural wall surfaces as well as limestone blocks set along the creek edge. The wall surfaces will feature images derived from botanical elements fundamental to the Creek’s ecosystem, including the seed shape of the Common Sedge Plant, an indigenous Prairie woodland creek-edge foundation plant, and the Springtail (Collembola), a very small hexapod that plays an integral role in creating the rich top soil of Champaign County. On the creek edge, images of diatoms native to the creek will be substantially enlarged and sandblasted into limestone pavers. These diatoms are a major group of Boneyard Creek algae and phytoplankton and play a key role in the regulation of the biogeochemical cycle of silicon in the Boneyard aquatic systems. These images will provide opportunity for discovery as park visitors walk along and engage the creek edge. By bringing attention to integral native species that often go unnoticed, Mr. Mackie’s design celebrates the Boneyard ecosystem, provides an opportunity for ecological education for all ages, and creates an attraction for downtown Urbana.
Through a generous donation from the Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation, additional public art enhancements have been added to the project. Two walls will receive colorful treatments of decorative tile representing seed heads and stalks of the common sedge plant. The tiles in these treatments are partially composed of recycled material. Additionally, two stone monuments will be placed on the Broadway Bridge to mark the eastern entrance to the park from street level.