Artists, Columbia officials meet before starting Short Street garage designs

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 | 9:41 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The finalists for the Short Street parking garage public art now have a 30-day contract with the city to create a complete design proposal for the garage.

The Commission on Cultural Affairs Standing Committee on Public Art held a meeting Wednesday night to discuss the Short Street Parking Garage project.

The committee, other Office of Cultural Affairs members and the garage’s architect and engineer answered questions from the four artistswho previously were chosen by the committee to submit a design for the public art around the parking garage.

The garage, as a city building, falls into the Percent for Art program, which allots 1 percent of the budget for site-specific works of art.

After the 30-day designing period, the public will have at least two weeks to offer input on the three proposals, Office of Cultural Affairs manager Chris Stevens said.

Following the public’s input, the committee will choose the final design, and that design would have to be approved by the City Council. The artist or artists will have 60 more days to make sure that all parts of the design are compliant with safety and city codes. Only after that process can the works of art be created.

A showing of up-to-date mockups of the Short Street garage preceded the round of artists’ questions, which mainly revolved around the practical aspects of where art could be placed: Where did the builders expect the most foot traffic? Could sculpture or ceramics be somehow adhered to the sides of the building?

A small “pocket park,” as Stevens referred to the approximately 24-by-50-foot area facing Walnut Street, seems to be an ideal spot to place art. It would be a communal area for guests at the hotel and for users of the garage.

The other sides of the building pose more difficulty for designing due to the lack of space or the potential for another building to be constructed close to the garage, blocking off the view.

Finalist Robert Friedman, who is a co-owner of Grindstone Lithography Studio in Orr Street Gallery and a professor at Stephens College, said the park potentially could serve as an entryway to the arts district, because that corner is the closest to north Columbia.

Fellow finalist Bede Clarke has not made public art before, but is excited about the process. “Your mind can keep running with it,” Clarke said, so “it’s nice to have a deadline.”

Beth Nybeck, the only finalist who does not live in Columbia, wanted to talk to “neighbors” of the garage to get a feel for how they view the area. The Kansas City-based artist spoke to Nina Wilson-Keenan, who lives in the neighborhood on St. Joseph Street.

Wilson-Keenan was at the meeting representing the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association and voiced its concerns about having a publicly accessible walkway from Walnut to Broadway.

She suggested the artists and the committee could incorporate art into the 10-foot walkway on the west side of the building to create a “friendly” passageway that would encourage foot and bike traffic in the neighborhood.

Supervising editor is Celia Darrough.

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