Edmond's public art helps attract visitors
EDMOND — An ongoing refurbishing and maintenance effort is helping to make sure a public art collection valued at close to $4 million can be enjoyed by future generations.
To date and through public-private partnerships, 169 pieces of art have been placed throughout the city. Of those, 13 were in the city's inventory before the city council created the Visual Arts Commission in 2002 to oversee the ambitious public art project.
Cinda Covel, administrative specialist for the commission, placed the value of the collection this spring at $3.7 million. She said seven pieces of art, previously approved for inclusion, were placed last year, including three pieces at Edmond's 70,000-square-foot Public Safety Center, 101 E First St., dedicated last fall in downtown Edmond.
Covel said the public art program helps make the city a beautiful place to live.
“That's the compliment I hear more often than any other,” she said. “It also brings tourism to Edmond.”
Work has been underway on refurbishing many of Edmond's art pieces after the city council's 2013 approval of a $10,000 contract with Tulsa-based art restorer Steve Spinharney.
Covel said that so far, Spinharney has refurbished about 80 pieces in Edmond's collection, removing paint, dog urine, bird feces and graffiti, and repairing broken pieces.
His work will include refurbishing “Touch the Clouds,” an 18-foot-tall, 20,000-pound bronze by renowned sculptor-artist Dave McGary, a piece that was brought to Edmond from its longtime spot outside Houston's soon-to-be-razed Astrodome.
The bronze, acquired through the private fundraising efforts of local attorney, art enthusiast and arts program founder Randel Shadid, now stands on the University of Central Oklahoma campus.
Shadid said Edmond's public art program has been copied by Woodward, and leaders in other communities in Oklahoma have inquired about the program.
“Our program has been remarkably successful,” said Shadid, a former Edmond mayor who said he spends much of his volunteer time furthering Edmond's public art collection.
“It has been embraced by donors and has been well received.”
Woodward officials, he said, asked about the program several years ago, and used Edmond's public art ordinance as a guide in establishing their own program.
In Edmond, the three new art pieces that adorn the Public Safety Center, Covel said, are “Edmond's Finest, Edmond's Future,” a bronze by Gary Alsum; a bronze by Jane Dedecker titled “Sherlock Holmes;” and an oil painting, “i-tse a-da-le-ni-ha,” by Dennis Johnson. The painting's title is Cherokee language for “new beginning,” Covel said.
Coming to Edmond soon will be a stainless steel statue titled “Dancing with Dolphins,” which Covel said was approved last year to be placed at a new office complex at 118 N Broadway.
“On Deck,” a bronze by Richard Pankratz, is due to be placed in the Edmond 66 softball park on state Highway 66 in east Edmond, Covel said.
Another large bronze, titled “On the Edge,” by Enoch Clay, is ready to be delivered, Covel said. It depicts children at a swimming pool, and will be placed at the Mitch Park YMCA, Covel said.
The city's most recent placement is a painting by Dick Evans, acquired in partnership with Shadid, “Junipers Discuss an Odd Occurrence,” located inside the city's Planning and Zoning Department, 10 S Littler.
Covel said the Visual Arts Commission shares costs with private businesses to acquire art pieces. Last year, the city council appropriated $100,000 for the public-private partnerships.
Covel said the city has begun implementing a program approved a year ago offering utility customers the option of supporting the public art program through a monthly donation added to their bills.
All of Edmond's art pieces are featured on the city's website, Covel said, including an interactive map, stories about each piece and partner information.
A brochure is available for downtown walking tours, she said.
Craig Dishman, Edmond Parks and Recreation director and liaison to the Visual Arts Commission, said the department has begun hosting three-hour driving and walking art tours using a city-provided, eight-passenger vehicle.
“We have a lot of (art) pieces in Edmond. The tour gives them some inside information that people don't know.”
He said having public art throughout the city attracts visitors.
“It is obviously a huge bonus to the city. It adds aesthetic value.”
Elizabeth Waner, Ward 2 city council member, has been the council's representative on the arts commission since 2007.
The art program, she said, is pleasing to residents who enjoy driving around to look, and also serves as an economic development tool.
“People come to see what we have, and think this is a city that cares about itself.”
She acknowledged that even though Edmond receives favorable mention in nationally read art journals, the program can be controversial.
“People wonder why we're spending money on art when we have potholes,” but said she thinks the city can justify the expenditures in terms of the benefits the program brings to Edmond.
Waner said she thinks the program can be sustained so long as private donors come forward.
“A lot depends on willing participants,” she said.
Public art in Edmond
The city of Edmond’s website offers an interactive map that features information about public art on display in the city. To views the map, go online to www.edmondok.com/art.
The nine-member Edmond Visual Arts Commission meets at 4:45 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of every month at the Downtown Community Center, 28 E Main St., and meetings are open to the public.
For more information abut the Edmond Visual Arts Commission, where public art can be viewed or to arrange a periodic donation the visual arts program in Edmond, call 216-7636 or go to www.edmondok.com/evac.
To arrange a tour of Edmond’s public art collection, call the Parks and Recreation Department at 359-4630.