Pondering Public Art

I’ve recently returned from travels and I’m convinced that there is both a need and a benefit to public art. You ask, what’s public art? Here, I’m talking about anything that is put on display in a public location that makes a visual statement, defines the space, creates a dialog and tells a story.

Since I work in the arts, my radar is always looking for something unique. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to encounter “rest stop” art since some of North Dakota’s stops have the work of North Dakota artists.

“Metamorphosis” by Bradford Rhea

In Sterling, Colorado I encountered “Metamorphosis” by Bradford Rhea an insect statue in the I-76 rest area. Seeing the sculpture sparked my interest so I did a little digging on Rhea. He’s a significant artist with a unique history.  He was commissioned by President Clinton to make a gift for the Pope John Paul II. Most notably, he has recently been creating sculptures from monumental blocks of  marble, some over 30, 000 lbs.

Nebraska’s I80 also features numerous roadside monumental sculptures Nebraska’s 500 Mile Sculpture Garden.

Art not only finds its way into highway stops but can be found in parks, city entrances and shopping malls. At the District shopping mall in Henderson, NV “Spirit Form Emerging” was designed by sculptor Riis Burwell. The artwork was designed as a memorial to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. The title of this 17 foot bronze sculpture “is meant as a tribute to the collective spirit of those who perished that day as well as all of us who remain and were transformed by that event.” The artwork is different from every angle and provides a organic counterpoint to the shop facades.

As Jamestown grows, The Arts Center, in conjunction with city/county planning entities and builders, can and should facilitate the inclusion of more public art. These artworks have the potential to enhance, beautify and further provide identity for the community. I hope that with the anticipated growth that is forecast for many North Dakota towns, that cities like Jamestown can include public art in their comprehensive plans. If this is important to you also, please tell your planners.


3 Responses

  1. Logan Adams

    Downtown Kansas City, Mo., is packed with sculptures, and it really helps draw lots of people to the district, benefiting local businesses.

  2. Thanks for sharing these examples of Kansas City’s wonderful sculptures, I’m sure they are a terrific draw to bring people to the city. If Jamestown could just set a modest goal of one sculpture per year or wall mural – in 5 years we could have our own arts district.

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