Fire station public art fosters community togetherness

Friday, February 19, 2010 | 7:42 p.m. CST; updated 11:02 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 18, 2010
This is a model of an art piece by Glenn Williams that will be erected at Columbia's new Fire Station No. 9 at Blue Ridge and Providence Roads.

COLUMBIA — Newly dedicated Fire Station No. 9 will soon display art designed to inspire community bonding.

The piece is designed as a "stylized seedling" with abstract projections.

“It’s not really literal, which allows the public to be engaged, which I think is important,” said Paula Elias, a member of the Standing Committee on Public Art, the group that selected the project and artist. “It allows the public to have a conversation.”

“The stylized seedling is intended to serve as a metaphor for the newly established community,” said Glenn Williams, the artist for the project and an art professor at Northwestern Missouri State University. “Inscribed on the sides of the seedling are proverbial statements from a variety of cultures pertaining to how one should conduct themselves in order to maintain a productive, thriving community.”

Kip Goodman, chairman of the committee, said Williams was selected because he considered in his design the people and the aesthetics of the neighborhood. Fire Station No. 9 is located at the corner of Providence and Blueridge.

“He really adopted a community perspective, where he wanted to learn as much as he could about the surrounding community and the fire station,” Goodman said. “He wanted to add something interesting to the mix — something that would complement the other great art that’s come about in that area.”

Williams was also selected because of the depth of his work, Elias said.

“He puts a lot of himself into his pieces,” Elias said. “It was a combination of his technical expertise and the deep meaning he puts into his art that made him stand above everyone else.”

Because of small details like inscriptions of proverbial statements, Goodman said Williams’ art took on a deeper meaning.

“Sometimes you look at art from a distance and you can take in the beauty of the piece,” Goodman said. “But when you get closer to Glenn’s pieces, you have a different type of interaction with the art and that adds to the meaning of the piece itself.”

The piece will be erected by the end of May. The art was funded by the city's Percent for Art program. According to the program's Web site, 1 percent of the cost of city construction or renovation projects can go toward public art at the site. Eligible construction projects have a budget of $1 million or more.

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