Art Along the Way to be Installed at Sensory Garden Playground in 2016


CONTACT: Margie Wilhelmi, Wheaton Park District
630.510.4984 | [email protected]
DATE: December 14, 2015

DuPage County, IL—The Sensory Garden Playground already offers children of all abilities a safe, accessible space to play together. And in 2016, it will offer art on their way to play!

Art Along the Way will first showcase a Musical Mare and Sensory Arch, along with two more sculptures yet to be revealed. The Musical Mare and Sensory Arch will be installed by summer 2016.

The Sensory Garden Playground is specially designed for children with sensory processing disorders, and Art Along the Way is no different.

The Musical Mare is “a monumental steel statue of a horse’s head that will be instantly recognizable and engaging from a distance,” according to Geneva-based artist Joe Gagnepain, designer and builder of the sculptures. “When one gets closer they start to see all the different parts that make the striking statue.”

Mallets will hang on cords from the Musical Mare, so children can test the sounds and resonances produced by the sculpture’s various materials.

Another impact of the Musical Mare will be the interaction between the large silhouette of the horse’s head and the shapes of the smaller individual objects it consists of.

“When one gets closer they start to see all the different parts that make the striking statue,” Gagnepain said. “This will further engage children’s imaginations as they see all the objects and see how they relate as shapes.”

The Sensory Arch will also play with ideas of size; as an eight-foot-tall steel horseshoe spanning the pathway into the playground, it will “further reinforce the equestrian theme and play off of the scale of something small seen extremely large.”

Peppered into the horseshoe’s holes will be multicolored semi-transparent acrylic panels complete with symbols of the “sight, sound, touch, and imaginative concepts” found inside the playground.

Gagnepain’s preferred materials for his artwork are another man’s treasure: trash. He has worked with “bicycle parts, plastic toys, antique metal pieces, car parts, and anything that can be scavenged to reduce environmental impact.”

With these supplies, Gagnepain “mimics living forms with inorganic matter, creating animals, insects, plants, and whimsical abstractions from what some may consider garbage.”

To learn more about Joe Gagnepain and his unique style of art, please visit

The Sensory Garden Playground is dedicated to providing outdoor play spaces and gardens designed to meet the needs of all visitors, especially those on the autism spectrum. The playground is a joint project founded by the Wheaton Park District, Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Kiwanis Club of Wheaton, Shane’s Inspiration, and Landscape Structures, Inc.

Phase I of the playground is complete, including a Fragrance Garden, Sound Garden, Pony Stables Playground, and Central Gathering Area.

Three more phases are under development. Improvements that are a part of these phases include: a playground for 5-to-12-year-olds, a boulder climbing area, a water play area, an accessible multipurpose sports field, and an accessible treehouse.

The playground is being funded solely through private donations, grants, and sponsors, which allow it to be free for all. Fundraising for the remaining three phases is currently underway.

The Sensory Arch, an eight-foot-tall steel horseshoe, will span the walkway into the playground starting in 2016.

Artist Joe Gagnepain’s composite concept of the Musical Mare, to be installed in 2016.