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.
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.
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.
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."
1987 - Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park Catalog printed
1992 - President Goodman-Malamuth retires, Paula Wolfe named third president of GSU.
To read a 1996 synopsis of the park's history click here
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 Summer 2018.
December 12, 2017 Lewis Manilow dies
2018 - "Untitled (Firenze)", 1962 by Abbott Pattison, donated by Sean Susanin, is installed. The "Butterfly Ranch" prairie restoration (Openlands/ComEd Grant) project, is begun with mowing and treating the invasive plant species, and seeding native species.
2019 - "Lanleff Demeure, No. 4", 1961 by Henri Etienne-Martin is restored and relocated to the Patio adjacent to E Lounge in GSU's main campus building. "Untitled", 1982 by Joel Shapiro conserved and relocated to the same patio to be in conversation with Lanleff Demeure. Conservation repairs and coating treatment completed for Bruce Nauman's "House Divided"
Sculpture, Wine & Dine (annual fundraiser) Honorary Chair, Susan Manilow, leads the way for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of GSU and theNate. The Lewis Manilow Common Ground Initiative is announced.
"Rudder", by Neil Goodman installed (long term loan) in the new park "room" for temporary sculpture exhibits.
New trail along the north edge of the Butterfly Ranch established, connecting "Bodark Arc" to "Flying Saucer". Site for observation deck identified, Art in Architecture / Percent for Art project initiated.
2020 - Art in Architecture, Illinois Capital Development Board call for artists' proposals on hold due to Covid19 Global Pandemic; conservation work on Mark di Suvero's "Yes! For Lady Day" and "Phoenix" scheduled.