By David Markham
“Gateway” in Meadowbrook Park and “A Seat at the Table” in Shawnee Mission Park are new outdoor public artworks area residents will be able to view beginning in October.
“Gateway will be our very first large-scale permanent art installation and we are proud to feature a local artist, Amie Jacobsen, for this project,” said Superintendent of Culture Susan Mong. “I am also proud of the community collaboration and input that occurred at several stages of this project. Not only is this a stunning piece that can viewed and enjoyed during the day, but it also lights up at night creating a destination for park visitors. There is a lot of historical significance designed into this piece as well helping to connect visitors to a greater sense of place.”
A public ribbon cutting to celebrate this much-anticipated installation is planned from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 17, near Shelter #1 in Meadowbrook Park, 9101 Nall Ave., Prairie Village.
“A Seat at the Table” is a temporary sculpture installation by JCPRD’s first Artist in Residence, Kirsten Taylor, and is being installed on Sept. 30 along the Orange Trail north of the marina parking lot in Shawnee Mission Park, 7900 Renner Road, Shawnee and Lenexa. Taylor’s work aims to bring attention to invasive plant species like bush honeysuckle and JCPRD’s ongoing efforts to combat them.
“This piece will be on display through early November, but hopefully longer depending on the weather and condition of the piece, and any dramatic weather fluctuations,” Mong said. “We encourage the public to get out and explore and experience this piece before it is gone.”
A visual depiction of Taylor’s journey and aspects of her temporary piece will also be up at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, through the end of the year as another way to experience this artistic response to invasive species.
“Gateway” in Meadowbrook Park
In late 2021, Jacobsen’s proposal for “Gateway” was chosen by an art selection committee and is the first public artwork commissioned under JCPRD’s Public Art Program initiated in 2019 as a way to activate park spaces in a new way.
Standing nearly 12 feet tall, “Gateway” features multiple brightly-colored and shaped petals made of cast glass and steel, and will glow in the sunlight as well as with lighting at night. The center of the flower creates an archway that beckons visitors to walk under the arch. Inside, illustrated panels stretch from the floor up the interior sides, creating a tapestry representing the history of the area of Meadowbrook Park and Prairie Village as a whole. Behind and above the illustrated panels, the rest of the archway will be covered with mirror-polished stainless steel which will reflect the visitors below. This represents the present and future of the community, reflecting back at the viewer.
Mong noted that to complete this piece, Jacobsen engaged with four other artists.
“Amy built relationships and connections to identify artists to represent key groups who have history intersecting with this land,” Mong said. “That includes an artist from the local Jewish community, the Mexican American community, the Osage Nation, and the Shawnee Tribe. One can view this complex and beautiful history as they enter through the archway of this piece. The signage will also allow one to learn and read more about this rich history.”
The location for the installation of “Gateway” is on the west side of Meadowbrook Park’s Great Lawn, where it was placed intentionally in order to be visible from the clubhouse, from the grand stairway into the park, and from Meadowbrook Parkway.
The Oct. 17 ribbon-cutting is intended as a celebration of this art installation.
“This piece experienced delays due to some supply chain issues around the glass that is a part of this art piece,” Mong said. “It has definitely been worth the wait, and we are so excited to introduce the public to this piece. The ribbon-cutting will include remarks from JCPRD board leadership and from our artist, Amie Jacobsen. The ribbon cutting has been set to take place a little later into the evening so we can flip the lights and see the transformation of this piece at dusk.”
“Gateway” was partially funded through private donations and a grant from the AT&T Foundation.
“A Seat at the Table” in Shawnee Mission Park
Kirsten Taylor, a multimedia artist and a student in the masters of fine arts program at the University of Kansas, started in JCPRD’s new Art and Natural Resources Residency on Aug. 1 and will continue in the project through October. The residency includes a four-week immersion experience with the JCPRD Natural Resources team in Shawnee Mission Park, the creation of an ephemeral temporary art piece, an artist-led workshop and talk back, and a community outreach project.
“A Seat at the Table” is the title of Taylor’s artistic response to the effects of invasive species. The artist constructed a table with triangular tiles made of local clay that was harvested from Shawnee Mission Park, each featuring an impression of a plant from the tallgrass prairie region that flourishes when the invasive species, such as bush honeysuckle, is removed.
“I hope that members of our community will consider our relationship to nature in a deeper way from Taylors’ work, gain a greater understanding about invasive species in our region, and their harm to our ecosystem,” Mong said of the installation. “I also hope our patrons will gain a greater sense of responsibility for the care and preservation of our green spaces and what they mean to our collective physical and mental health. Lastly, I hope our community will gain a greater understanding of how art can serve as a powerful tool to illustrate, inspire, and educate our community around the beauty and essential nature of parks and natural spaces in our community, and their role in creating a resilient community.”
“A Seat at the Table” is located approximately 0.2 miles from the trailhead along the Orange Trail. The section of the Orange Trail leading to the artwork is an unpaved, natural, surface with uneven terrain and occasional roots. The trail is a maximum of three feet wide and follows a 30-foot incline going towards the artwork.
An indoor and fully-accessible exhibit featuring photography telling the story of the process of the making and intent behind “A Seat at The Table,” as well as recreations of the ceramic components will be located at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center for the life of the artwork. A video tour of the trail walk to the piece will also be available online. Find updated information on the indoor exhibit at JCPRD.com/1209/Art-Exhibits.
Another public aspect of the art residency is an Artist Walk and Plein Air Art Workshop with Kirsten Taylor for ages 16 and older, which will take on Saturday, Oct. 22, at Shawnee Mission Park’s Shelter #3. After a walk with the artist to “A Seat at the Table,” workshop participants will get a chance to create their own artwork using natural inks made by Taylor from materials found in the park. The natural inks, paint brushes, and pencils will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their own drawing boards, paper, and drawing materials, as well as portable seating. This two-hour program is free, but space is limited and preregistration is required. Learn more information and register online.
The 2022 art residency project was generously supported by the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission through a grant. JCPRD looks forward to opening up a second annual artist in residence opportunity later this year which will focus on prairie restoration in the spring and summer months of 2023.
The JCPRD public art program depends on private support to continue this great work, and welcomes funding partners that are passionate about art, nature, and the powerful intersection of these two things in order to evoke a sense of wonder and care for parks and natural spaces. For more information visit JCPRD.com/1683/Meadowbrook-Park-Public-Art-Project.