Diversion: “That which diverts; that which turns or draws the mind from care or study, and thus relaxes and amuses; sport; play; pastime; as, the diversions of youth.”
Your take on the newly positioned sculpture, “Diversion,” installed Friday at the corner of Buffalo and Tipton streets, may align exactly with Webster’s New World Dictionary definition. Maybe not.
The Johnson City Public Art Committee debuted its inaugural installation of what will be more than a dozen sculptures along West State of Franklin Road, as well as several downtown streets, with “Diversion,” a creation by Kyle Lusk, from Brevard, N.C.
The 300-pound, nearly 10-feet-tall steel structure is very hard to miss.
But what is it?
“It’s my intent for it not to specifically be anything,” said Lusk, while adorned in jeans and a blue and red Superman T-shirt. “It allows me to communicate my ideas — my feelings — without the baggage of trying to explain a deliberate interpretation. It symbolizes nothing in particular, and it will help lend itself to individual interpretation.”
Thanks to the committee’s planning and hard work, artistic metal works with names such as “Cosmos,” “Horse and the Hound,” “Granite Gator” and “The Truth in Barbie’s DNA” will soon grace Johnson City streets, bringing to life the “Corridor Project.”
City commissioners last month approved 17 sculptures, from which 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 State of Franklin to East Market Street.
Lusk, a Brevard College sculpture professor, said his work is made of one-eighth-inch-thick steel. It’s hollow inside, but its shape is eye-catching.
“It’s made of Core-Ten steel, and the finish is all natural,” he said. “The color comes from natural oxidation that will occur over time. I love it, and this is a really good site. It’s going to get viewed from a lot of angles.”
Lusk said his parents encouraged him at a very early age to create works of art. He also does that creating, whenever possible, in his class studio, where his students can observe firsthand his creative process. Lusk also attended Brevard and gained a higher interest in sculpting while there.
For the past 15 years, he has dedicated his works mainly to outdoor displays, but he also does commissioned work and displays his art at exhibits in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and elsewhere in the Southeastern United States.
“This is our ‘Wow’ moment,” said Sarah Davis, public art committee chairwoman, while admiring the structure. “Kyle Lusk’s piece is so profound. It’s so well-balanced. I’m grateful to the city for its vision. I’m just so proud of our committee and the whole process.”
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 in which the city leases a space to an artist for one year for $2,000. During that time, there’s a price tag on that piece of art. In Lusk’s case, the asking price is $10,000. If someone wants to buy it, 20 percent goes back to the Public Art Committee.
The guest curator for this year’s exhibition is sculptor and Professor Emeritus Steve Bickley. He 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.
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.
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