Outdoor Downtown Sculpture Exhibition

Last weekend was the 24th Annual Outdoor Downtown Sculpture Exhibition here in Lawrence. I had heard about it from a tweet by Weaver’s Department Store, and was thrilled to participate in the free event. When walking Mass St, it’s almost impossible to overlook the impressive works of art strategically placed throughout downtown, and to have the chance to learn more about each of the eight pieces chosen for 2012 is such a treat.

The event was sponsored by Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission, Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, and City of Lawrence, and was founded in 1987 by Jim Patti. Each year, different works of art are chosen from artists across the United States to decorate the streets of downtown Lawrence. These pieces are on loan to the City of Lawrence, with the exception of a couple past works that have been purchased by the City and are now permanent public works of art.

Drinks & snacks at the Lawrence Arts Center before heading to the streets.

A couple dozen people attended this year's 2012 Exhibition.

The event started at 5:30pm at the Lawrence Arts Center, where we could pick up a brochure to guide our tour, a few snacks (cookies, crackers, pretzels) and plenty of bottled water or soda for our trek around downtown. Before we headed out, we were introduced to Barbara O’Brien, Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Collections at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (Phew! What a title), and her daughter, Pearl O’Brien, an MFA candidate in the textile program at KU. Both mother and daughter selected the 2012 sculptures and would be leading us in the downtown art walk. Again, what a delight!

First: "International Blue and White Dinosaurs"

Second stop on the trek: "Native Spirit Guide"

The first sculpture we visited was, “International Blue and White Dinosaurs,” on 11th street by the Courthouse. This work, by Matt Moyer of Columbia MO, is a twelve-foot high by fourteen-foot long steel structure. Its body and shape really depict the form and power of a dinosaur. In fact, Barbara and Pearl made sure to note that while they were selecting pieces for Lawrence, they were specifically looking for works that embodied the titles they were given. In my opinion, it definitely makes the works of art more accessible to everyone. Next on the walk was “Native Spirit Guide,” down in South Park. This piece was created by Asia Scudder of Oklahoma City OK, and is an ancient mythological image made of steel. I love how it stands tall next to the trees by its side, and just like its neighbors, sways in the wind. Very fitting.

The third stop along the way: "Rockslide"

The fourth sculpture on exhibit: "Interlace 2"

The third stop was, “Rockslide,” on Vermont St. This welded steel sculpture, by Robert Lamberson of Dannebrog NE, is nothing if not literal. I appreciate the movement of the piece, but it evokes a sense of discomfort with me! It seems a bit aggressive and destructive in composition. Next, we stopped by The Eldridge Hotel on Mass to see “Interlace 2.” Constructed from steel tubing, “Interlace 2″ is an eleven-foot high structure by Sarah Deppe of Maquoketa IA. The anatomy of the sculpture is such that it appears to invite small children to enter the entanglement (which, as we were told, it completely acceptable) and to appreciate the space.

The fifth visit: "Survival"

Sixth on the walk: "Remember the Cove"

Moving right along (each stop was limited to about 5-8 minutes), the fifth sculpture was, “Survival,” created by Nathan Pierce of Cap Girardeau MO. Located down by Lawrence City Hall on 6th St, this is a 450-pound structure made from welded steel! I really appreciated the curious nature of this piece; it’s quite striking in its pose and body tension. Next we headed south on Mass to 8th St, where we found, “Remember the Cove.” This work of art, by Jaak Kindberg of Greenwood AR, is made of recycled steel, and is a tribute to dolphins. The smooth edges of this piece emit a shine that could be perceived as a slick, wet surface, just like a live dolphin, and the blue adds a nice pop to Mass St.

The seventh sculpture visited: "Emerge"

The last stop: "The Brood of Self-Loathing"

Continuing down to 9th and Mass, we stopped to view, “Emerge,” by Heidi Hamilton of Omaha NE. This piece uses the simple shape of the triangle to create an interesting geometric, stacked effect. It appears as if it’s growing out of the ground, leaving a beautiful pattern behind. The last work of art visited on the exhibition was, “The Brood of Self-Loathing,” by Lawrence KS’ own Jake Oxnard. What a title, ey? This structure was created with concrete, rebar, wire mesh, burlap, and many other mediums. It evokes a strange sense of possibility within its stationary, but confident structure. This piece is located on New Hampshire St, between 8th and 9th.

After spending two hours taking a nice evening walk around downtown to learn about the art work on public display, we felt inspired (and a bit tired!). We’re so fortunate to have such great support for the arts here in Lawrence; there are plenty of cities across the nation that don’t appreciate artwork, and it’s such a shame. I’d like to thank the sponsors of the 24th Annual Outdoor Downtown Sculpture Exhibition for continuing to share the stories of the public works of art, and the talented artists behind them. I look forward to participating in this event next year, and hope you’ll consider participating as well.

For more information on locations of the sculptures, and details behind the artists, click here.

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