In about two months, artistic metal works with names such as, “Cosmos,” “Horse and the Hound,” “Granite Gator” and “The Truth in Barbies DNA” will grace West State of Franklin Road and Buffalo Street, bringing to life the “Corridor Project,” the first rung on the Johnson City Public Art Committee’s artful to-do list.
City commissioners on Thursday approved 17 sculptures, from which 12 to 15 will be affixed and on display for motorists and passers-by to admire. The sculptures, which range from interactive wonders to odd figurines, will be located at the West State of Franklin/University Parkway intersection, a stretch of West State of Franklin from Sevier Street to Tupelo Honey, as well as several locations on Buffalo Street from West State of Franklin to East Market Street.
The committee received a total of 75 entries. With the help of a Virginia curator, it reduced that number to 17.
Sarah Davis, committee chairwoman, presented renditions of each piece of art to commissioners, describing briefly the artist and the uniqueness of each creation.
“We have an exhibit, a group of work, that outshines anything in our region,” Davis said. “We believe this will attract a lot of people to Johnson City. Tonight, with this step and your approval, we know we are going to transform and shape our city and community. We have truly achieved that ‘WOW’ factor.’”
The “WOW” factor is an agreed upon goal generated in 2011 at the Millennium Centre. There, about 200 guests participated in forming the committee’s general guidelines and commitments as to what type of visual improvements people would like to see at city parks, on or near city buildings and on walkways and pedestrian corridors.
The Public Art Corridor, of which this step is the first, will mesh with a larger greenway plan that includes Founders Park, and later the Johnson City Public Library. Private donations will be used to compensate chosen artists, and the greenway itself will include areas for public art, in addition to functional items such as benches, planters, educational kiosks and bike racks.
Entries were submitted from Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
“It’s essentially a loan program,” said Public Works Director Phil Pindzola. “We will lease a space to an artist for one year for $2,000. During that time, there’s a price tag on that piece of art. If someone want’s to buy it, 20 percent goes back to the Public Art Committee.”
The committee has collected more than $31,000 in private contributions, which means they are about $3,000 short of leasing all 17 works of art, but Pindzola and Davis said there will be some pieces that don’t make the cut due to sizing or “fitting” with certain locations.
The guest curator for this year’s exhibition is sculptor and Professor Emeritus Steve Bickley. Bickley taught sculpture and design for 34 years at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and has more than 30 years of professional experience as a fabricator and conservator of large-scale works.
“We will enter into a separate contract with each artist, and they will provide insurance,” Pindzola said.
The committee also is in the process of procuring art to be donated by Tupelo Honey restaurant and placed at Founders Park. Its members hope to do an unveiling of the corridor project and the work at Founders Park at the same time — around the third week in June.
Artists are responsible for transportation of their work to and from the site and will be on site to oversee installation. However, artists will not be responsible for the cost of installation and site preparation. In addition, city workers will be on site and will make available any heavy equipment requirements such as a crane or forklift to assist artists during installation.
As the committee took its “baby steps” in 2010 and 2011, members pledged not to pigeonhole themselves into thinking they must duplicate similar programs in Bristol and Kingsport, and members have been doing a lot of research since that time.
An exploratory committee was formed by members of the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University, the Reece Museum, Johnson City Area Arts Council, Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, the city’s parks and recreation department and Holt Photography. The result was a 12-member committee.
For an application guideline, sculpture requirements and exhibition dates, go to www.johnsoncitytn.org/art/projects. For more information, call Public Works Director Phil Pindzola at 434-6080 or email email@example.com. Include artist/team name and phone number in all correspondence.
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