Stephens looking for local art talent

The committee opts to look for a Missouri artist for the project at Stephens Lake Park.
Friday, February 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:27 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

A Missouri artist likely will be chosen to create artwork for Stephens Lake Park, the city’s Standing Committee on Public Art has decided.

The committee chose to restrict the search to Missouri artists because of funding for the project, which is financed by the city’s Percent for Art program.

“The first step in the determining of the geography of the search is somewhat dictated by the budget,” said Marie Hunter, manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs. She added that when doing a national project and bringing in national artists, the travel budget needs to be considered.

Search limited by budget, community relevence

A total of $25,210 is earmarked for art at Stephens Lake Park. Some has been set aside for maintenance and administration, leaving $18,500 for the artist’s commission. On that budget, the artist is responsible for all costs related to the artwork, including travel expenses. The Percent for Art project allows for 1 percent of the cost of any new city construction or renovation to be put toward original, on-site artwork. Stephens Lake Park is the sixth project since the program’s inception in 1997.

Hunter said the committee thought carefully about the decision to search mainly in Missouri. “I think the discussion hinged on wanting to reserve as much of the budget as possible for the actual artist,” she said.

Hunter said it’s “wonderful” to bring something new to the community by getting national artists, but that “it is good to be able to celebrate local talent.”

Ann Gowans, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission also serving on the Standing Committee for Public Art, said she voted to limit the search to Missouri because of the budget and the importance of finding an artist who can relate to the park itself.

“When you get into a national search, you could get a lot of ideas that aren’t necessarily relevant,” Gowans said, adding that she sees Stephens Lake as the central city park.

“We have a number of very fine artists,” Gowans said. “It doesn’t occur to me that we couldn’t find something we wouldn’t just love from a Missouri artist.”

The Office of Cultural Affairs will begin the artist search by working with public art programs in St. Louis and Kansas City and the Missouri Arts Council to develop a mailing list of artists in Missouri. Artists will mail back resumes and examples of previous work by late March.

The committee will select an artist from among the applicants and forward its recommendation to the Commission on Cultural Affairs. While the city council will have the final say, Hunter said the public will have the opportunity to comment throughout the process.

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