Public art in Hutchinson has been growing at a tremendous rate the last few years. Even though people are around who have been involved, questions about details are often met with lots of, “I don’t remember…”
It seemed a shame to let this history slip away when the people who were instrumental in creating the public art scene were around and available. In 2014 I approached Hutchinson Magazine about doing a story, because I wanted a written record in a place that would survive long term. You can read that story by clicking here.
However, there wasn’t room in the magazine to include the timeline of public art I created. I asked Hutchinson Magazine for permission to use my original story here, and they graciously agreed. You can read it below, and see a timeline of public art in Hutchinson.
This story remains a work in progress. There are still public art pieces I’ve been unable to get details about. I will continue to update it. —-
Please do not copy material from this article or timeline, including for non-profit use. But feel free to reference it at anytime. Thank you!
© Patsy Terrell, 2015
A vibrant arts community is one barometer of how well a city is doing. Hutchinson has more public art now than it ever has in its history. Public art makes art available to everyone – no museum visit necessary. Murals, sculptures and other artwork in the environment take art to all citizens.
Hutchinson’s art scene began thriving with the addition of Avenue A Park. It changed how people viewed the city – both locals and visitors. Aside from the practicality of revamping the bridge and creating a green space, it demonstrated a willingness of the city to invest in beauty. “I believe whole-heartedly it was the catalyst for all the good things that have come since then,” says Jim Seitnater, Downtown Development Manager.
Shortly after the park was finished, a grasshopper sculpture by Beth Van Atta was installed. That side of the park is affectionately referred to locally as “Grasshopper Park.” The following year, the first mural created a stunning backdrop. It pays homage to Hutchinson with references to farming, the fair, the stars, and poet William Stafford. “It is a piece of Hutchinson now,” says Mark Rassette, Director of the Hutchinson Reno Arts and Humanities Council and the Hutchinson Art Center, who was instrumental in making the mural happen.
Public art is critical to generating a sense of place. “When we do all these wonderful things such as the downtown streetscape without public art or strong design elements, what you have is a cleaned up area that could be a mall anywhere,” says Rassette. “But why is it ours? Why is it someplace we have an attachment to even if we don’t know why? Public art is one of the reasons. Since people began gathering in groups, they’ve created public art. It bonds the tribe. It has meaning to us.”
That mural has since been joined by three others downtown. In 2012, artist Brendan Martinez created the “Imagine” mural at 11 W B. The following year artist Jose Ray created a mural on the west side of Avenue A Park. The most recent mural was created at the Hope and Life Center, 400 South Main, by three local artists; Jocelyn Woodson, Brady Scott, and Julie Black.
Artist Jennifer Randall, who founded Third Thursday, organized the murals to premiere during the June Third Thursday events. “The murals are a joyous reminder that beauty and color are always present even when we feel bleak,” she says. “Our citizens are worth it. They are all worth seeing the beauty of art, for free.”
That’s one of the benefits of public art – it’s readily available to everyone in the environment and people can engage with it in multiple ways. “Art impacts everyone: those who walk by and their spirits are lifted, the artists who collaborated to make community art happen, and people like me who hear stories of the impact of a simple expression of joy on a once blighted part of Main Street,” says Gina Nachtigal, President/CEO of the Hope and Life Center.
Woodson says many people stopped by to watch the progress as they were painting the mural. “The idea of having this around is exciting to people,” says Woodson. “It allows people to participate in something they might not have done before. They see it all the time. It’s part of their lives. It livens up the environment. Public art inspires you on a daily basis.”
In addition to the murals, the sculpture walk has added public art to Main Street. In its third year of a five year plan, the sculpture walk brings pieces to town. The public votes for a favorite and the city purchases it. During the previous two years, more than half of the pieces have been purchased by donors and remain in Hutchinson.
Meryl Dye, Assistant City Manager, has been part of the sculpture walk committee from the start and says it has been well received. The committee has an unofficial, yet excellent, measure of how much people like them. “There’s a big payoff for us when we see people collecting around the sculptures for a photo op,” she says.
That happens regularly with the egg sculptures near DCI Park. Lovella Kelly, who with her late husband, Ron, was instrumental in starting the sculpture walk, can see them from her business, Sarah’s Catholic Bookstore. “We see people over there taking pictures all the time,” she says. “People just love those sculptures. They have so much personality.”
Those photos represent people making a connection with art in the environment. “Those things create a living history,” says Seitnater. “Art helps create a sense of place.”
While downtown has been steadily increasing its arts presence, they do not have a monopoly on public art. It was the Hutchinson Public Library that got the ball rolling in recent times with the brick wall carving they installed in 1985. They also now host a sculpture on loan from the Bush family that was part of the inaugural sculpture walk. Dillon Nature Center, Hutchinson Community College and the fairgrounds all have art available for public viewing.
Public art creates a civic identity. It’s what makes a community unique. Multiple studies have shown art has an economic benefit as well. It helps attract businesses and individuals to live and to visit a community. Sheila Scarborough lives in Round Rock, Texas, but has visited Hutchinson and is a co-founder of the business, Tourism Currents. “When I see public art on display in a community I know that they understand how much a place benefits from the joy of human creative energy. I want to visit towns like that,” she says.
Public art also gives the built environment a human touch. Art can give a community a unique look and create a sense of vitality.
The process of public art is interactive by nature. It can involve artists, administrators, elected officials, construction people, business owners, and a host of other people. It allows for a shared sense of ownership and engages the community through the creation and installation processes, and in some cases – like the sculpture walk, through public voting.
Having that blend of people involved is a hallmark of a workable project according to Rassette. “You have to have the public investment, the private investment, and the non-profit. I don’t think you can look back in history from the time of Babylon and find a case where it has been successful without the civic entity being involved. It takes everyone.”
Public art is freely accessible to everyone in a community. It can get the attention of people who are just passing through an environment. They don’t have to make a special effort to see it. Randall says this is one of her motivations. “I believe in bringing art to the masses. Not everyone can afford a piece of artwork for their home, but all can afford a walk downtown, and a look at a mural or sculpture. That the collective ‘we’ sees something creative on a daily basis is important. ‘We’ are reminded of loftier things than our bills and problems. ‘We’ see that we can create a different reality, that we can break out of our roles that life has somehow surrounded us with.”
Mary Clark, Superintendent of Dillon Nature Center, says she sees the impact their art has on visitors. “It has always been amazing to me how children in particular love the statues,” she says. “For some children, these beautiful sculptures may be the only life-size bronze artwork they ever get to see and touch.”
Woodson says while they were painting the mural on South Main that people would come up and say they’d been watching it from the start. “The excitement of seeing somebody in the act of creating is really special for people,” she says. “It is something people will remember as part of their history.”
“Art is the frosting on the cake,” says Seitnater. The infrastructure is essential, but it’s not enough on its own. “Art and architecture are important elements to the living history of a community. Art is an enhancement to everything else,” he says. And it has become an important economic force. “More and more communities are recognizing that art and culture are forms of economic development,” he says. “They create more robust communities.”
That is what Kath Helfrich, owner of Fashionista, has experienced. “As a downtown business owner, I have definitely witnessed the impact of our community art. I’ve talked to customers who have explicitly come to downtown Hutchinson just to see the sculptures and the murals. I’ve also visited with customers who are surprised to see such a wonderful artistic effort going on and are very impressed. Hutchinson is slowly gaining respect as a vibrant cultural community. The art and music movement is blossoming here. I believe that the public art is giving Hutchinson an identity as a community that embraces artistic expression.”
TIMELINE OF PUBLIC ART IN HUTCHINSON
1919 – Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Read more: http://experiencehutch.com/2014/10/08/1297/
1939 – Threshing in Kansas, mural in post office
1982 – Mosaic at Our Lady of Guadalupe in South Hutchinson
1985 – Carved Brick Bas Relief at Library
1989 – Stringer Fine Arts Center on the Hutchinson Community Campus is opened in January. A bronze sculpture is placed in the lobby at opening or shortly thereafter. It is “Tug of War” by Gleena Goodacre. On the sculpture in lower left front the artist signed the art work , it is dated 1988 and is 3/15 edtion. Goodacre is an internationally known artist, born 1938.
1990 – Dillon Nature Center -“American Gold” is the name of the bronze eagle sculpture in flight by Dan Ostermiller. The “Certificate of Authentication” states it stands 113 inches high and is #10 of 12 of this sculpture. It is west of the parking lot and north of the brick “walkway of names” leading to the main entrance of the building. It was placed on the rounds in 1990 before the new center building was erected.
1993 – Dillon Nature Center “Mountain Comrades” is a bronze sculpture of two bears by Dan Ostermiller. It is #6 of 6 editions of this sculpture. The “Certificate of Authentication” states it is 108 inches high. You see it on the left side of the driveway as you drive up to the parking lot. It is on the south side of the main building and is one of six sculptures here at Dillon Nature Center. It was placed on the grounds in 1993.
1995 – Dillon Nature Center “Fireflies” is a statue by Jane DeDecker. The “Certification of Authentication” states it stands 44 inches tall. It depicts a boy looking at his catch of fireflies in a small jar. The firefly’s tails light up. It is in the entrance hall of the main building and was donated in 1995.
1996 – Dillon Nature Center – “Frog Pond” is a bronze statue by Jo Saylors and is 36 inches tall. It depicts a boy playing with a frog on a lily pad and was placed on the grounds in 1996. It is on the north side of the main building near the pond area of the waterfall just off the paved trail that leads out from the northwest door of the building. Many children have their pictures taken next to the boy with his frog.
1997 – The large bronze Dragon outside of the HCC Student Union was a donation from Chris and Jack Harris to the college. The artist was Jesse Kuhs, and Roy Swanson was instrumental in it being placed here at the college after the renovation of the Union.
1999 Fox Theatre reopens after extensive rennovation. Gregory Hines performs at the gala opening night. The Fox is an art-deco masterpiece.
2001 Roundabout Sculpture at 23rd and Severance by Mike Helbing of Berwyn, Illinois
2001 Avenue A Park done – Grasshopper sculpted by Beth Van Atta placed in Park
2001 Dillon Nature Center – “Journey II” is a bronze statue by Gary Price is life-size of two Canada Geese taking flight off the water. It is 70 inches tall, 71 inches long and 61 inches wide. It is on a platform in the upper pond on the east side close to the peninsula. It is in honor of Dick Dillon. It was installed in the fall of 2001 when the pond was lowered to do routine maintenance.
2002 Mural SE Ave. A and Main – David Lowenstein Mural
2006 Reno County Arts and Humanities Council sponsors first Art Walk
2007 Third Thursday kicks off
2012 Premiere Sculpture Walk in June
2012 Brendan Martinez’ “Imagine” Mural at 11 W B in June
2012 Dillon Nature Center – “Five Kids in a Tree” is a life-size bronze statue by Ken Ross. This statue is located in the Jim Smith Family Playscape. Measuring 93” tall and 52”wide, it features three boys and two girls playing in a tree. It was placed in the entrance of the playscape in 2012.
2012 Premiere Sculpture Walk in Downtown Hutchinson
Tony-X-Press – 2012, purchased by People’s Bank & Trust, located at 11th & Main (Sculpture Walk Purchase)
Rival Readers – 2012, purchased by Bob & Ann Bush, on loan to Hutchinson Public Library (Sculpture Walk Purchase)
Rachel Weeping for Her Children – 2012, People Choice purchased by City, located in Avenue A Park (by waterfall) (Sculpture Walk Purchase)
Taking Flight – 2012, purchased by Mark & Gail Rassette for their home (Sculpture Walk Purchase)
2013 Sculpture Walk
2013 – Jose Ray Mural in Avenue A Park in June
Butterfly Girl – 2013, buyer is anonymous at this time – to be donated to City for Orchard Park (Sculpture Walk Purchase)
Eternal – 2013, purchased by First National Bank and donated to City, located at Sherman & Main (Sculpture Walk Purchase)
Spirit of Energy – 2013, Peoples Choice purchased by City, will be installed at Grasshopper Park (Sculpture Walk Purchase)
Eyes on Man – 2013, Peoples Choice purchased by City, will be installed at Zoo (Sculpture Walk Purchase)
2014 Sculpture Walk –
details here: http://www.hutchgov.com/department/division.php?fDD=2-368
2014 Hope and Life mural on South Main Street – June 2014
2015 Egghead – people’s choice Sculpture Walk Purchase – Located near the corner of Main and 1st, in front of Westphal Jewelers
2015 Sculpture Walk
details here: http://www.hutchgov.com/405/SculptureWalk
map and brochure for 2015 http://www.hutchgov.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/771
2015 Mural on the south side of the Hutchinson Art Center at the corner of 5th and Washington. The Mural was created by participants in a mural workshop, the public was invited to paint on it as well.
Public Art at the Kansas State Fair
-Pronto Pup Woodcarving
-Roy Coffey Sculpture
-100 year celebration Mosaic Tile wall*
-Arthur Capper Stained Glass Window*
-Painting in Pride of Kansas Building*
*Indicates inside buildings.
FROM HCC – M.L. Stark Hinkle
Director of Marketing and Public Information
1990-1993 made The Vietnam Women’s Memorial, is part of the Washington D.C. Vietnam Memorial site. 2000 designed the Sacagawea U.S. Gold Dollar. There is a lot online.” The sculpture was donated to the college by the Dillon Family, in honor of Stella Dillon (yes, same as the Dillon Lecture Series).
The large metal sculpture artwork (looks like gears and a pendulum) out side the Fine Arts building was a work by a former HCC instructor, but no one here can remember the name at this point. Nancy Masterson worked to get it placed at present location, and I believe she will be able to tell you all about it. Nancy is still in town, so I’m sure we could contact her for what she knows about it.
There is a stained glass art piece located above the window of Stringer Fine Arts doorway (next to the sidewalk and closest entrance to the YMCA–I’m awful with directions, but I think Northwest corner is correct). It was done by an Honors Art Appreciation class taught by Teresa Preston and has been there since the early 2000s. Teresa could give you an exact date of installation on that one.
The Blue Clock tower was placed after the renovation of Gowan’s Stadium about 2005. It was donated by the Rotary Club of Hutchinson
The Lockman Hall Stained Glass windows are also iconic art in Hutchinson. There are 13 in total. Here’s what the college history book, written by Helen Weeks Stone has to say on them: “The 13 stained glass windows on the first landing of the front stairs on Lockman Hall symbolize the industries of the city of Hutchinson. One represents a salt mine for which Hutchinson is well known. The extensive wheat farming region surrounding Hutchinson is shown in another window. The grain elevators depicting the many such elevators in teh city and the oil wells typifying the oil industry center around Hutchinson are also represented. There are also other symbolic objects and pictures around the building, such as the two windows above the main doors (which are no longer the main doors–MLNOTE), one of which is an hour-glass, the other a set of balancing scales. The quotation “Whoso Findeth Wisdom Findeth Life” is inscribed in the concrete above the entrance to Lockman Auditorium.
The windows were restored in the mid 1990s, and there was an article in the Hutchinson News at the time on that. Gene Allton, who is our retired maintenance director, knows a great deal about them, and he still lives in town and would love to talk about them. They were restored at Hoefers in South Hutch.
Of course, Lockman Hall itself could be considered art. Built in 1938 in Spanish Style, Ortho McCracken was the architect of one of the most historic and beautiful buildings in Hutchinson.
Other artwork I’m still trying to get details on:
Hutchinson Zoo in Carey Park has a turtle sculpture, and maybe more. They have not responded to phone calls or emails.
Holy Cross Catholic Church has a large sculpture of a table where people can “Eat with the Holy Family.” They have not responded to email or phone calls. They also have an angel sculpture I believe to be a Pete Felton piece.
The Cosmosphere has a sculpture of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, near the entrance.
The Cosmosphere has a large stained glass piece in the museum that features pieces from space shuttles.
Sculpture Walk Information
Photos from the Second Sculpture Walk in 2013