The City Council has approved a sculpture for the roof of Evanston’s Maple Avenue Parking Garage that one alderman said appears to depict a suicide attempt.

“The artwork implied to me a potential suicide,” Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said Monday, adding that the sculpture is “bizarre.”

A selection committee appointed by the Public Art Committee approved Hubertus von der Goltz’s “Encounter” after reviewing the work of 189 American and foreign artists.

“I don’t like it at all,” Rainey said. “It is exciting and it’s very, very different, but it just seems to me we could’ve done better.”

Nevertheless, she and all other aldermen voted in favor of the sculpture.

The city capped the total cost for the sculpture at $105,000, which will come from a public arts fund.

Rainey added that the Cultural Arts Division needs to find a way to remove the sneakers that she said kids will inevitably toss up to hang on the structure.

The Parking Committee recommended that a secure door be installed at the rooftop of the garage, Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said.

The selection committee included Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, members of the Public Art Committee and the Arts Council, business owners, artists and other community members.

Hubertus von der Goltz, a German artist who specializes in sculptures depicting silhouetted people walking on thin platforms, also designed a sculpture at the LaSalle Gateway Plaza in Chicago.

Cultural Arts Director Jeff Cory said that, like all good art, the sculpture will provoke discussion.

More renderings of the sculpture

What drivers will see as they approach the garage on Clark Street.

Driving south on Maple Avenue.

Looking north from Maple Avenue and Church Street.

Related story

‘Two guys who forgot where they parked’

Join the Conversation


  1. Whimsical and Welcome
    The sculpture is a great way to celebrate art in our city AND will provide a solid visual landmark to orient visitors. A win all around. Reminds me of the sculpture of a couple of business people scaling a wall in Chicago that I enjoyed from the “L” on my way to work for years.

    We need art. We need levity. As much now as ever.

    Totally don’t get the “suicide” aspect. Seems way more “Man on a Wire” to me.

  2. Flowers Are Always Better
    There is always controversy over these weird sculptures.
    Why not spend money on flowers, a la Chicago?

  3. Sculpture ?
    If the Council wants it, they should take a collection among themselves and pay for it. No public funds whether general or ‘art fund.’
    What do they expect to cut to pay for it, human services ? Money is not free !

  4. Public Art Makes a Community Exciting
    I’ve seen similar works in Germany and the Czech Republic, and they’re always a talking point. They liven up the neighborhood and create excitement. Kids and adults (with imagination) alike love thought provoking public art; think Millennium Park.

    The fact that Evanston City Council voted this through shows vision on their part.


  5. um, really?
    “I don’t like it at all,” Rainey said.

    But then she voted for it anyway…

    I think the only discussion this sculpture should be provoking is WHY THE HELL.

    1. yes…really.
      as a simpleton this might be the only discussion you can think of to provoke thoughtful discussion.

      But then there are others that prefer a more spirited conversation with those of opposing views.

      Open your mind and lift the weight of seriousness from your soul. You just might like what you find…

  6. sculpture for parking garage
    I’m not sure why Ann Rainey, if opposed, voted in favor… and in terms of the expenditure… it is my understanding that the money is not being taken away from something else, rather is for the cultural arts division, bringing art to Evanston. Regardless of whether or not you care for the particular piece, part of living in this community is the opportunity to be exposed to art in various public places. As to planting flowers instead… it would be incredible if more of our commissions would work together and see just what they might come up with…. imagine if our ecological, parks and recreation, cultural arts, and human services (just to name a few) came together on a collaborative project….

  7. Public Art
    While I think public art is a good thing, in a time when there is a budget deficit it seems like there are better ways to spend $100,000. I suspect many social service agencies could certainly use the money.

    1. Public, as in for us all…
      I could use the money as well…but I can comprehend that public art is just as beneficial to the fabric of a community as any social service agency.

  8. Out of touch with reality
    In a few months these council members will be asking for a tax increase to cover the huge budget mess. The $100,000 would have paid for one employee’s job.

    It is clear these people have no idea of fiscal responsibility.

    Watch and see how many of the council members will claim they did not know the city was in a budget crisis.

  9. Actors Gym should make the most of this
    This sculpture reminds me of tightrope walking during circus arts classes at the Actors Gymnasium in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. They should make the most of this “free” advertising!

  10. This sculpture is fabulous!
    This sculpture is fabulous! It is modern, exciting, perfectly suited for the site. I am proud of Evanston that we can do something like this, and proud that my tax money has contributed.

  11. Local artists?
    Public art is certainly a benefit to the community, and while I understand the concerns about “squandering” tax dollars, just remember that these funds are earmarked for this specific purpose…

    That said, why aren’t we taking the opportunity to stimulate our local economy by awarding these contracts to local artists?

    The city did this for “Conversations: Here and Now” at Raymond Park, created by Evanston artist Indira Freitas Johnson (after it was rejected for the Sherman Plaza art installation.) We should continue the tradition…

  12. Fiscal accountability – the Evanston taxpayer is footing bill…
    The sculpture should be called “Footing the Bill”

    News from the Illinois Arts Council…

    7-29-09 You have received communications from me in the last few months about the state of the Illinois Arts Council’s budget. As many of you may know, this has been a very difficult budget process, the worst we have experienced in over a quarter century. The budget approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor allocated less than $8.6 million in state dollars for FY2010. You have felt the negative effects of the past two years’ reductions but they were small compared to what is likely happening this year. We have received notice from the Governor’s Office that an additional 5% reserve will be placed on our budget. Therefore the Council’s budget will be slightly more than $8.0 million. In comparison, the FY2007 IAC budget was $19.4 million in state dollars. The Illinois Arts Council’s budget has plummeted more than 58% in three years. I have been privileged to be a member of the Illinois Arts Council for many years and I have never seen our situation so dire. Without additional state revenues, we may well have further cuts in the months ahead, and next year will be worse. We have tried to keep you updated about what is happening, but we were hoping for better news to give. In this time of economic downturn and worry about the future, the arts are even more important. History has shown what a positive and powerful force they can be in times of crisis.

    We cannot thank you enough for all you do and we want to assure you we will continue to fight for the arts in Illinois and for the support needed for the arts and the people they serve from border to border. We will keep you apprised of future developments.

    Sincerely, Shirley R. Madigan, Chairman

  13. sculpture funding
    The $ for this was allocated for public art, & could not be used for anything else. If it was not spent by a certain deadline, it would have gone back to the County. There was lively discussion throughout the elaborate approval process, which culminated in a democratic vote.

    1. Sculpture Funding
      Why waste money just so the State won’t get it back to do something, hopefully useful, with it. Is ‘we want to spend it to keep anyone else from getting it’ a valid motive ? Are there not adults in the Council ?
      This sounds like the person who comes home loaded with useless things they don’t want and won’t use and brags how much money they saved since it was on sale !

      1. Maple Garage Public Art Funding
        The money approved for the Maple garage sculpture has nothing to do with the state or county.

        The money is increment from the downtown TIF district within which the garage is located. If the money were not spent on public art for a municipal building within the district it would simply remain in the downtown 1 TIF revenue account. However, there is a city policy that provides for 1% of new municipal construction cost be spent to provide for public art.

        If not spent on public art, it could be spent ONLY on other qualified TIF district expenditures or not spent at all. When the district expires, any money remaining is distributed among the taxing bodies, i.e. city, 202, 65, township, county, etc.

        1. Garage Art Funding
          Then return it to the other taxing bodies and ‘hope’ they have a better economic and public responsibility sense than the Art and City Council !

  14. I think it is a HUGE waste
    I think it is a HUGE waste of money especially in these tough times that many of us are facing. I also wish a local artist or a least an American artist would have been chosen for the work.

  15. Deep Thoughts
    From the Fassbender website :
    ” Using the human shadow as a metaphor for the goals and desires of Everyman, this Berlin-based artist portrays us all as teetering over a chasm of unknown depth and destiny. His patinated metal silhouettes tightrope walk into an uncertain future. Mr. von der Goltz makes us realize we are all of us alone with our fate. Simultaneously, he reminds us that we all share the same lot and are together in our solitude.”

    “Simultaneously, he reminds us that we all share the same lot and are together in our solitude”…like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

    You can see more works by Hubertus von der Goltz here .

  16. Balancing act
    I’m not impressed with the piece and it would have been better to spend the money on an American artist. I think we have a few left.

    However it does symbolize the tension between the governed and those who govern. If one falls so does the other.

    1. Artistic Protectionism
      So no artistic diversity? Isn’t that the point of art? Would you encourage foreign art lovers to stop buying from American artists?

      1. On artistic protectionism
        I agree…artistic protectionism is bad.

        If we are going to spend money on silly artwork, the competition should be open to all, and silly artists from Evanston should not be given preference over silly artists from Germany.

        I don’t care for this particular sculpture…the artist’s nationality is irrelevant.

        ( I propose that we build a giant statue of Generalissimo Charles Dawes on the empty field at Chicago & Main. Like the character in the Oscar Wilde story , it would have bright sapphires for eyes , a large red ruby on his sword, and be covered in gold leaf. )

  17. More waste on art in Evanston – beyond this “work of art”?
    The city of Evanston funds the art center on the Lake at Lighthouse beach. The city collects a $1 a year rent check from the Art Center.

    In the capital plan the city has listed costs over the years of over $500,000 to make repairs to the building. The building will never get repair but continue to fall apart like the Civic Center.

    When you go by the ARt Center the people who run it appear to have no problem with putting “art work” out on the lawn.

    Recently I noticed our Mayor was at a benefit for this group, one has to wonder if she paid her own way or the ticket was free?

    Maybe the Mayor and her friends on the council should start to ask these people to paid a real rent for their use of the building rather than to have us taxpayer fund this!

  18. Safety hazard!
    I have the definitive reason why this sculpture should NOT have been approved… it will cause accidents! Maple/Clark is a high traffic intersection and such a “bizarre” sculpture will encourage drivers and pedestrians to look UP as they go by, pedestrians will be at risk of being hit by cars. It’s astonishing that this obvious fact has been overlooked by City officials–especially by my alderman–who approved the artwork. Perhaps the piece will be removed after someone gets hurt. I urge City officials to reconsider placing the artwork at such a precarious location.

  19. Waste!
    Just a complete waste of money.

    Do we neet this – no.

    Will this yield any tangible benefits – no.

    Is it nice to look at – maybe.

    Do looks yield revenues – no.

    At a time when this community is fiscally challenged, I cannot believe this has been approved. Disgrace.

  20. Sculpture and Council Legal responsibility
    Given the number of warnings residents have given about the danger posed by the sculpture [falling during a wind, people climbing on it and maybe falling, etc.], have the city council and art committee members taken out a ‘personal’—not with city funds– bond to indemnify themselves against these and other dangers ? Citizens should not be legally responsible for the foolish actions of the council.

  21. Why Not the “Walking Man”
    I’m surprised the Council and all the “art for art sake” supporters [who would not know it if it bit them] did not bid on the “WalkingMan” [or did it seem to much like what they already put on the garage] since it would have only cost the city $104 million. They could have certainly have just picked that off the “money tree” outside City Hall–like they imagine they can use for the budget [after they empty the residents pockets and drive the poor and rich out].
    The same kinds of minds that would pay $104 million are the same type that put the garage sculpture up—they don’t understand it therefore it must be art and very valuable.

    1. “Greater Fool” and the Councils art
      While the “Walking Man” sale is the best example of the “Greater Fool Theory” [it does not matter what you pay since there will always be a still greater fool who will buy it for more], the Council’s love with junk art must show they favor the same philosophy but this time “pay large amounts for junk” and their reputation for “appreciating art” will rise in their friends eyes.” Actually people will see the Council and these “artsy” people as being more in line with “the emperor has no clothes.”

      1. Evanston Got Robbed—of title

        The Chicago Trib. published a list and pictures of really bad sculptures in cities.

        Evanston should have been included—we'd be near the top of the list given how our 'artsy' councils don't seem to have any idea of good art and stick the city with being a laughing stock.

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