Artist James Surls has been selected to create a sculpture for in honor of 's centennial next year. The sculpture is expected to be installed in May 2013 and will cost an estimated $400,000. The project is funded by , a health care company based in the city.
The announcement comes after an 18-month organizational and selection process that included the City of Clayton, its parks and recreation department, the Clayton Board of Aldermen, the Clayton Century Foundation and Centene.
Members of the arts community also participated, including representatives from the Saint Louis Art Museum and . Via Partnership, a St. Louis-based consulting group that works with public and private organizations to develop and implement public art strategies, is assisting in the process.
The field first was narrowed to four finalists who each came to Clayton, visited the site, met the selection committee and submitted proposals.
“They had to go through the approval process,” said Patty DeForrest, director of parks and recreation for Clayton. “Now we are negotiating the contract with the artist.”
The chosen sculpture resembles a vase with modernistic plant life rising from it. Like much of Surls' work, it shows a sensibility to natural forms and evokes a sense of both the present and future.
Surls is an internationally known artist whose work has been exhibited all over the world. His work also is in private collections and major museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Commissioning a public work of art is a slow process. But once the field of contenders narrowed to four, enthusiasm mounted. DeForrest said that she was excited to see how important art is to the local community and that she found the artist's visions inspiring.
“What he does is very natural,” DeForrest said. “We're very honored to acquire art from him. There isn't much of his work in the Midwest.”
The sculpture project must receive approval from the CCF board and the Board of Aldermen to move forward.
Meredith McKinley of Via Partnership, which has assisted with many public art projects in the U.S. and Canada, often doesn't see the art she helped bring to fruition once it is installed. For her, the Shaw Park project presents a unique opportunity.
“This is a project I expect to have a great sense of pride in,” McKinley said. “Not only because it's in my community, but it's not often I get to work with such a great artist and be able to go and see it and bring my children.”
DeForrest also has been down this road before. She oversaw the project that brought Alice Aycock's sculpture The Uncertainty of Ground State Fluctuations to in 2007.
“It's great when they install it,” DeForrest said. “One of the neatest things is when a kid sees it and goes, 'Wow. Look at that.'”