Johnson County Park and Recreation District launched a new Public Art Program in 2019 to activate park spaces in a new way. A regional call for artists was released this past winter with the goal to install a temporary installation at Shawnee Mission Park to engage park visitors in a fun, interactive way, and create a sense of magic that can be enjoyed during daylight and evening hours. Upon review by an art selection committee made up of artists and community members, the final selection of “Symbiosis” by Matthew Dehaemers was selected as the winning proposal and approved by the Johnson County Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners during the April regular board meeting. The ephemeral piece will be on display from June through September at the entrance of Theatre in the Park, 7710 Renner Road, Shawnee. Opportunities for the public to witness the construction of the piece on-site -- as well as participate in a community engagement project of creating seed balls -- will be announced soon through the project website JCPRD.com/1760.
The term symbiosis is described as the interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. Fascinated by this relationship and inspired by the prairie, the goal of “Symbiosis” is to emphasize how important humankind’s role is in its symbiotic relationship with the complex, magical, microworld beneath one’s feet. Additionally, Dehaemers uses this piece to mirror another yet symbiotic relationship that is valuable to the park and this specific location.
"For me, this project represents the symbiotic relationship that exists on stage and behind the scenes of Theater in the Park. How to pull off a successful production requires everyone working in concert to bring a musical production to life. The roots and the soil are these many people, from the actors, director, props, lights, and sound crews to those selling the tickets and working the concessions. With the evolution of a new Theatre in the Park complex, the seed represents that evolution from the small beginnings at Antioch Park to the present and going forward. This piece becomes its own theatrical back drop with the opportunity for viewers to enjoy and understand the significance of the diverse ecosystem that is Shawnee Mission Park. From the lake, to the woods, to the prairie, this is a magical place of which we are all stewards of," said Artist Matthew Dehaemers.
Matthew Dehaemers of Shawnee, Kan., employs a vast arsenal of mediums when creating his art, from water, wood, steel, and bread, to recycled glass and water bottles. Inspired by aspects of history, contemporary issues, community life, and the ecology of the Midwest, his goal is to make art that operates on different levels of audience engagement. His work addresses issues that are social, economic, and environmental. Dehaemers has completed numerous public art works in the local region including “Point of Departure” for the Avenue of the Arts program, “Seven Sentinels” for the KCMO Public Arts Commission, “Catalyst” for the KCATA Troost Max, and also completed a commissioned sculpture for the Kansas City Chiefs GEHA Stadium at Arrowhead art collection. Dehaemers earned a BFA from Creighton University and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Parks and Recreation Foundation of Johnson County will play a crucial role in the fulfillment of JCPRD’s Public Art Program through the procurement of grants and donations. The foundation continues to seek support for future projects through corporate and private funders. Those interested in becoming involved with public art initiatives are encouraged to contact Development Director Erika Seward at 913-826-3448 or [email protected]
Johnson County Park and Recreation District has been enhancing the lives of the citizens of Johnson County for the past 60+ years through its parks, quality of programs, professionalism, and response to developing trends. The district's contributions to the personal lives of Johnson County's citizens have earned the district local appreciation and national acclaim. Each year, the district records more than 10 million park visitors and participants across its 10,000 acres of parkland, 136 miles of trails and over 4,000 programs.