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Public builds Ottawa art project piece by piece

Art part of Canal Street transformation

As 7-year-old Lydia Purcell, of Ottawa, laid out the pieces for her mosaic flower Thursday, she said she chose the flower because “flowers can be really pretty.”

And after adding Lydia’s small flower, her 4-year-old brother Finn’s small mosaic and the dozens and dozens of others' small mosaics, the final project will be a pretty neat work of art.

Across the table from the Purcells and their mother, Carrie, was another Carrie — Carrie Guyon, an Ottawa native and Streator resident.

“I like bees,” she said commenting on her choice of mosaic art. “I like art. It doesn’t matter what it is.

“It was a fun opportunity.”

Susan Burton, the artist spearheading the project, said many people have taken advantage of the opportunity to contribute to Ottawa’s latest public art project.

“It’s been fantastic,” she told The Times, adding she had about 60 people create mosaics at last week’s workshop at Reddick Library and estimated another 100 would be created Thursday. The project will require about 450 pieces, she said.

The mosaics will be used to create three large mosaic pillars, which will have a pollinator theme, to help transform a portion of Canal Street into the Canal Street Art Walk in Ottawa.

Burton designed the concept for the pillars and presented it to the Ottawa is Blooming committee. She proposed six pillars. For now, the plans are for three pillars, but three more may be done in the future that would cover the history of the city’s lateral canal.

The pillars are part of the transformation of the portion of Canal Street into the Canal Street Art Walk, stretching north from Madison Street to the Illinois & Michigan Canal.

Most of a pedestrian and biking trail has been installed, a partial recreation of one of the historic Lateral Canal locks can be viewed, concrete architectural ornaments from an old school can be enjoyed along with a giant mosaic monarch butterfly. Another feature is a monarch butterfly and pollinator garden created by the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners and Ottawa Garden Club members. Its purpose is to foster the endangered monarch butterfly.

Recycling Ralph

In addition to the pillars, a large fish named Recycling Ralph also is in the works. The fish has been painted, but in keeping with a recycling theme, needs hundreds of bottle caps to cover its canvas. People are encouraged to drop off their bottle caps at Ottawa City Hall, 301 W. Madison St.

“He’s a sculpture the city commissioned me to do to raise awareness for recycling. For the America in Bloom judges coming to town, it was one of the weaker areas that we had for recycling in the city of Ottawa, so we’re going to change that, which is a good thing.”

Four dates remain to participate in the mosaic art project and Ralph:

— Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 29, Ottawa Old Town Farmers Market, 100 block of West Jackson Street.

— 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, Reddick Library

— 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, Art in the Park, Washington Square.

— 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, Jeremiah Joe Coffee, 807 La Salle St.

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