ILLINOIS - You might call it a hidden artistic gem.
One of the nation’s foremost collections of outdoor art is just 30 miles south of Chicago on the campus of Governors State University, and it's now in the running to be named the top sculptural park in the country.
Jeff Stevenson is the director of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park. Its 30 outdoor monumental sculptures are spread over 100 acres of the Governors State University campus.
The collection, which started in the 1960s before the university was even around, is now ranked number two in an ongoing USA Today poll of the best sculptural parks in the country.
"Everyone’s been voting every day and we now moved up to number two in rankings and we’re very excited," said Stevenson. "We certainly feel we’re number one and our supporters do as well."
The oldest piece was placed at the park in 1968 – an oil rail car cut and connected to I-beams, and it’s the one piece you’re encouraged to climb.
"It really moves on its own. When the winds come through, the whole thing starts rocking and rolling," Stevenson said.
While the majority of the art is abstract, you can’t miss the massive and forlorn Paul Bunyan.
"Tony Tasset has presented us with a Paul Bunyan that is older, and tired and his work is catching up with him," Stevenson said.
The sculpture park is free of charge, open 365 days a year, and well worth discovering.
"Anyone who visits here can find the magic of it. But it’s still this kind of unknown or discoverable place. A lot of people have not heard about it or have yet to visit it," Stevenson said.
And that could soon change if it wins the best in the nationwide poll.