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More art for the park

Sculpture garden along the river.

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'CONVERSATION WITH MYSELF': Denny Haskew's installation will include four 2-foot-tall figures.
  • 'CONVERSATION WITH MYSELF': Denny Haskew's installation will include four 2-foot-tall figures.

More sculpture is on its way to Riverfront Park, small-scale work that will be located in a garden just east of the Peabody Hotel and south of the Forever a Rose garden. The seven new pieces bring the value of sculpture in the park to $600,000, according to city figures.

The new sculpture garden itself, designed by city parks to take the form of a series of ripples, will be constructed with private donations solicited by the park's prime mover, City Director Dean Kumpuris.

The seven new pieces were purchased with funds raised by the annual Sculpture in the River Market juried event that showcases work by members of the National Sculpture Guild and Arkansas artists. They were selected by a committee that included Kumpuris, NSG executive director John Kinkade, Jane Rogers, Dorsey Jackson and Lucy Jackson. Their values range from $4,500 to $9,850.

Proceeds from the sculpture event — the city gets a commission on sold work — goes into a Little Rock non-profit called the City Parks Conservancy. Funds have been set aside for the maintenance of the works as well as purchase.

Other sculpture in the park was purchased with donated funds. The most recent work to go in the park was the Peabody duck, given by the Peabody Hotel and installed by the playground that opened last summer.

Ground will be broken in June or July on the park; a dedication is planned in September. The third annual Sculpture in the River Market will take place Oct. 17 and 18.

Six of the seven sculptures come from the guild, headquartered in Loveland, Colo., that has gotten the majority of Little Rock's public art business in the past several years. Executive Director Kinkade took no commission on the purchases, Rogers said.

The seventh work is by Jan Woods, a Little Rock artist.

Arkansas artists are represented in the annual River Market exhibit — eight have been selected for the fall show — but they and others have grumbled about Loveland's domination of public art purchases in Little Rock. Besides the park, sculpture at the airport and War Memorial Stadium has also been purchased from the Colorado guild. Kumpuris and Kinkade have a business relationship that goes back many years.

Rogers said she sees the local artists' point, but she and Jackson said that bringing in art from outside Arkansas will “broaden horizons.” They noted that some of the artists selected for the River Market show have work in museums.

Public art is a tricky business, as recent events proved in Eureka Springs, where the City Council's squabbling over a painting project has gotten lots of ink. Who should have the right to choose what goes in the public square? How much say should the public have? One man's art is another's kitsch. Then there is the issue of nudity, which should be a non-issue but which may require horizon-broadening.

“You can't please everybody,” Jackson said, noting that she didn't like each and every one of the pieces selected for the garden. She added that the purchase committee for the fall show will be made up of new members, to bring in other viewpoints to be accepted.

The pieces going in the garden include “Cascade” by the singly-named Chapel of Northern California; “Bateleur Eagle” by Pete Zaluzec of Lake Villa, Ill.; “Sizzling Sisters” by Wayne Salge of Johnstown, Colo.; “Conversation with Myself” by Lorri Alcott Fowler of Fort Collins, Colo.; “First Glance” by Denny Haskew (who sculpted “Forever A Rose”) of Loveland, Colo.; “Straight and Narrow” by Lisa Gordon of Santa Fe, N.M.; and “The Colt” by Woods.

Rogers said a separate non-profit is being established to support Riverfront Park.

UPDATE:

Ren Burke, the public art consultant for the National Sculptors Guild, e-mailed me this week (June 22) to say that only Chapel and Haskew are members of the National Sculptors Guild.

Michael Warrick, also member of the guild and on the faculty at UALR, won a purchase award in 2008 for his pieces "Coral 7" and "Coral 8," but I haven't received any information about where and when his piece will be on display. Will update when I do.

 

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