An artist can capture aspects of ordinary events and bring them to the surface for others to see. For local artist Don Bartlett, one of his last sculptures was inspired by the visual impact of a single photograph.
Bertrice Bartlett said her late husband’s bronze sculpture of four basketball players reaching for the ball was “inspired by the dynamic but fluid forms created during their action.” The work, simply titled “Basketball Players,” was created by Don Bartlett in 1984, two years before he died of cancer at 58.
From the Bartletts’ basement, the sculpture has found a new home: overlooking the basketball courts at Columbia’s Activity and Recreation Center.
“The sculpture represents basketball players, and the ARC is the most appropriate setting for it,” Bertrice Bartlett said. “I think it is important to share it with the whole community, and the center is a public accommodation open to all citizens.”
Bartlett gathered with members of the art community and the city’s Commission on Cultural Affairs on Monday afternoon at the ARC to dedicate the sculpture, which was installed last week.
Local artist Greg Thompson, a former student of Don Bartlett, built a case for the sculpture that Bertrice Bartlett said makes her husband’s creation resemble a jewel.
Betty Brown of the Columbia Art League said she liked “the way the case enhances the sculpture. It makes you feel the power and the passion of the players striving for the ball.”
Marie Hunter, manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said Monday’s commission meeting was held at the ARC to showcase the sculpture for the public.
In 1996, Bertrice Bartlett donated another work of art for public display: her husband’s “Light Fountain: First Born,” which is in the atrium of the Boone County Government Center.
Don Bartlett was an important figure in the community. He taught sculpture and design at MU and served as chairman of the MU art department from 1976 to 1979. One of his most visible contributions to public art in Columbia is his abstract sculpture “People,” which has graced the fountain lobby entrance of Boone County National Bank on Broadway since 1971.
One of his most celebrated achievements was the two-year display of his sculpture “Sister” at the New York World’s Fair Missouri Pavilion in 1965.