Route 66 News

Wilmington will buy buffalo sculpture for Route 66

The Chamber of Commerce in Wilmington, Ill., is buying a buffalo sculpture from a local folk artist’s estate and may eventually install it on Route 66, reported the The Free Press of Wilmington.

Noted folk artist Jack Barker of Essex, Ill., died on May 16. His family is planning to sell his unique artwork at auction later next month, and the Wilmington Chamber made an offer to buy Barker’s buffalo sculpture, which stood near the road at his former body shop.

Why would Wilmington want the bison? While there is a long approval process ahead, planning is underway to someday raise bison at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Midewin bison will become a big draw for the community as tourists by the busload will travel here to experience this new addition to the prairie. They will seek out nearby restaurants, shopping and photo opportunities during their visit.

“Jack Barker’s metal art could be that draw,” commented Chamber president Eric Fisher. “It’s a one-of-a-kind piece made by a local artist. It is the perfect anchor for a Wilmington landmark and someday it will be just like the Gemini Giant in helping to put Wilmington on the map.”

The sculpture was appraised at $8,000. Eleanor Barker, Jack’s widow, and son Jack Jr. have agreed to sell it to the City of Wilmington for $4,950. Several people have made donations to help with the purchase.

The city may place the sculpture near the downtown walkbridge or at the entrance to the South Island Park.

(Photo courtesy of The Free Press)


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