Formally established by the Governors State University Board of Trustees in 1978, the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park was named for Nathan Manilow, a visionary developer who, along with Carrol Sweet and Philip Klutznick, formed American Community Builders at the conclusion of World War II. They planned and built the neighboring Village of Park Forest for returning GIs. The history of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park predates GSU in that sculptor Mark diSuvero spent the summers of 1968 and 1969 living and building sculpture on the land that was to become the university.
1968-69 - Lewis Manilow, son of Nathan Manilow, loans the use of a house on the future campus of GSU to sculptor Mark diSuvero. DiSuvero spends two summers creating sculpture. His presence attracts other artists: John Chamberlain, Richard Hunt, John Henry, Charles Ginnever and Jerry Peart, among others, to the area. DiSuvero creates at least three sculptures: "Yes! for Lady Day," "Prairie Chimes" and "The Mohican."
1969-71 - Governors State University is chartered. The campus is built and occupied.
1976 - "The Sculptor, the Campus, and the Prairie" is presented by "The Governors State University Center for Monumental Sculpture." The groundbreaking exhibition includes work by seven sculptors arrayed across the campus. Bill Engbretson, first president of GSU, retires. Dr. Leo Goodman-Malamuth is installed as president.
1971 - Nathan Manilow dies. Lewis Manilow assumes the helm of Manilow business interests. He purchases and donates Mark diSuvero's "Yes! for Lady Day" to GSU.
1978 - GSU Board of Trustees formally names the growing collection of artworks on campus "The Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park."
1981 - Mary Miss is commissioned by the Park Forest South Cultural Foundation to create "Field Rotation."
1982 - Martin Puryear is commissioned by the Park Forest South Cultural Foundation to create "Bodark Arc."
1983 - Bruce Nauman is commissioned by the Park Forest South Cultural Foundation to create "House Divided."
1992 - President Goodman-Malamuth retires, Paula Wolfe named third president of GSU.
2000 - President Wolfe resigns. Dr. Stuart Fagan is installed as president of GSU. He and his wife, Dr. Ora Simcha-Fagan, begin to work with the director of the State of Illinois Capital Development Board's Percent for Art program to realize a series of commissions for the park.
2002 - GSU convenes a selection committee which selects three artists from 22 maquettes submitted for consideration to create commissioned works for the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park.
2003 - The park receives "Lanleff Demeure No. 4" by Henri Etienne-Martin as a gift from The Art Institute of Chicago.
2005 - Richard Rezac completes work on "Frame," the first of three works resulting from the Percent for Art Program commissions. Christine Tarkowski installs "Working on the Failed Utopia," another Capital Development Board project.
2006 - Tony Tasset delivers "Paul," the final installation of the 2002 commissions.
2007 - President Fagan retires. Dr. Elaine P. Maimon is named fifth president of GSU. Geoffrey Bates is appointed as the first Director and Curator for the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park. The Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park Advisory Board is constituted and develops and approves bylaws. Dan Peterman is commissioned to create "The Granary Project," an additional CDP Percent for Art project.
2009 - "Horizons," a 12-figure installation by Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, becomes the first "Solo Exhibition Series" presentation.
2010 - The Art Institute of Chicago donates Clement Meadmore's "Spiral," on site since 1984, to the park. "Neil Goodman in the Park" is the second "Solo Exhibition Series" presentation.
2012 - Yvonne Domenge donates "Windwaves" to the park. "Solo Exhibition Series" presentation "Sophie Ryder's 'Upside Down, Kneeling" appears in the park.
2013 - "Illinois Landscape No. 5" by John Henry is painted and conserved.
2014 - "Solo Exhibition Series" presentation "Don't Tread on Me: Sculpture by Chakaia Booker" appears in the park.
2016 - "Flying Saucer" by Jene Highstein is rebuilt, painted and conserved.
2017 - "Bodark Arc" by Martin Puryear has restoration/conservation work on the wooden gate, begun in 2016, completed. Director, Curator Geoffrey Bates retires, Jeff Stevenson is appointed the new Director and Curator of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park and the Visual Arts Gallery. "Solo Exhibition Series" presentation of "Don't Tread on Me: Sculpture by Chakaia Booker" is extended until Fall 2018.