Stonehenge-style columns will be added to the list of unusual art that adorns Columbia’s landscape, which already includes alligators playing banjos and flying french fries.
Columbia City Council approved plans on Monday night to add St. Louis artist Carol Fleming’s concept design “Look Out Point” to Stephens Lake Park as part of the Percent for Art program.
Started in 1997, Percent for Art allows for 1 percent of the cost of new city construction or renovation projects to be used for site-specific public art.
The Standing Committee on Public Art and the Commission on Cultural Affairs recommended that the council approve the design. Council members, however, voiced concerns over community approval and understanding of the artwork.
Columbia citizens had the opportunity to comment on the artwork proposed for the Stephens Lake Project. Fleming submitted two designs which were on display in the City Hall lobby in January. Although there were positive comments, council members were concerned about the number of negative opinions.
“I’m not an art critic, but I do not like these,” wrote Bill Pauls, the Second Ward representative on the Parks and Recreation Committee. “I’d like something with more realism — with people perhaps enjoying recreation.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Pauls said, “I don’t understand why we need ceramic stones in a park and I am not sure I like the idea of art in the parks because parks are natural works of art in themselves.”
During discussion, council members voiced their own concerns about the design. Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash said in the future he’d like to see less abstract art that appeals to the masses.
“I think (the design) is going to be very elegant yet simple when it is installed in the park,” said Nancy Burdick, a member of the committee and commission. “I don’t think anyone will be confused by it or feel that it is something they don’t understand.”
“Look Out Point” will include 12 ceramic columns varying in height and arranged in a spiral design. Each object will have texture and be glazed a different color.
The council voted unanimously to use Fleming’s design, reasoning that art projects tend to grow on the community.
“I think we should subject ourselves to the criticism of the public and go with the committee’s recommendation and hope that (“Look Out Point”) turns out as well as the others,” said John John, Fifth Ward Councilman
The artwork in Boone County Courthouse Square, for example, faced heavy opposition when it was chosen. The piece, “Jamboree,” features five animals playing musical instruments. It was not a Percent for Art project.
“I thought it was ridiculous at first … but it’s grown on me,” said George Batek, an attorney who comes to the Boone County Courthouse daily. “Time heals criticism.”
Anderson Peebles, who works in Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center, said his department, Facilities Maintenance, enjoys “Jamboree.” He said they do not like “First Born,” a fountain and statue of a father and sons.
“The general opinion in my department is we don’t like that one with the dish, but we like the animal musicians,” Peebles said.
“First Born” was also not a Percent for Art project.
Marie Hunter, manager for the office of Cultural Affairs, said she believes public art gives people access to art on a regular basis.
“It is one thing to go to the art museum and view art, but public art sets it in the everyday experience,” Hunter said. “You can go to the park or out to your car and see a piece of art.”