City hall artist sculpts Columbia history

Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | 5:59 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — New Mexico artist Howard Meehan is forging a key for Columbia's new City Hall and, in the process, hoping to unlock Boone County's history.

Meehan is asking the community to propose past or present noteworthy happenings, significant people and favorite locations from and around Columbia and Boone County that will become embedded images in the glass panels of his steel-framed keyhole sculpture, "Keys to the City." His 19-foot work will sit in front of Columbia's renovated City Hall on East Broadway, which is scheduled for completion in 2010.

Since he was chosen for the project last November, Meehan has submitted submitted two proposals. The first, a 30-foot stainless steel spire, was voted down by the Office of Culture Affairs and its Standing Committee on Public Art because it didn't have the widespread support of Columbia citizens.

Now that his second proposal has been approved, Meehan said he is looking for a way to "document and reflect the spirit and history of the community," according to a news release from the city.

"While he's been under contract for a while, this is, in a way, still near the beginning of his design phase because he's just now getting to the content," said Marie Nau Hunter, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs.

For his research, Meehan spent about a week in Columbia in September observing aspects of the community. During that time he talked to many local historians and visited historical archives, including the State Historical Society and the Boone County Historical Society, Hunter said.

A humanities class at Hickman High School also contributed to Meehan's research, with students' thoughts about Columbia's history, Hunter said.

"They did some research on Columbia history and presented to him what they thought would be important to be represented," she said.

The public can submit ideas via online comment card on the Web site, by mailing the Office of Cultural Affairs, P.O. Box 6015, Columbia, MO 65205, or by fax at 874-7681. Meehan will use his existing research and any ideas he receives by Nov. 10, to develop the images, photos, quotes and text included in his final sculpture.

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