When Eleanor Frasier moved to Blue Springs, she had recently retired from teaching and became involved in the city’s art league. While the group first concentrated on more traditional art, she and its other members soon realized they had the opportunity to enter “the hub of [a] movement,” Frasier recalled.
That movement – public art – centered on making art accessible and community-oriented. In 2000, Blue Springs became the first city in Eastern Jackson County to establish a public art committee. Since then, the commission, which Frasier chairs, has envisioned art not as a museum feature or yearly show, but as “art throughout the year, art for everybody.”
So where better to install a new exhibit than along Adams Dairy Parkway, a major area for traffic and business? Once the site came to mind, Frasier said the theme emerged naturally -- “capricious,” to sum up the location’s liveliness.
The exhibit, dedicated last Thursday, features four sculptures, selected out of more than 50: “Borbor 6.1” by Will Vannerson, “The Chase” by Stephen Fairfield, “Celebration” by Cecilia Lueza and “Once Around the Block” by Andrew Arvanetes.
For Fairfield, this theme offered an inspiration to play, “stretch” and challenge the mundane. His creation depicts a young girl outstretched on the pedals of her bicycle to catch “the largest, most beautiful butterfly she has ever seen.”
“There is a boring sameness to strip malls and shopping centers -- interesting public art can help counteract that,” Fairfield said. “Including a range of creative sculptures in the fabric of the community adds visual stimulation, intellectual curiosity, and an opportunity for community residents and visitors to engage with the local culture.”
Cecilia Lueza also interpreted the theme through the lens of childlike exuberance and whimsy. Her piece illustrates a young girl “jumping with joy as way of celebrating life itself.”
For Frasier, this kind of energy and involvement can be seen through Blue Springs’ public art scene as a whole. She emphasizes art’s ability to reflect and reinforce its surroundings. For example, she describes the art featured in the city’s downtown as welcoming, calling on people to gather.
According to Frasier and Mayor Carson Ross, the welcoming installations can also be an economic driver. In a 2010 Blue Springs Public Art Commission anniversary report, Ross estimated the city’s public art program as an almost $1 million economic asset.
Due in part to this wide support, the city now claims about 40 public art pieces, up from about 10 in 2000.
Next, Frasier says the commission will bring in another temporary exhibit, with submissions likely opening in September. She and others in the group are still deciding on the theme. The commission also plans to publish a commemorative publication showcasing the city’s public art pieces next year.
IF YOU GO
All four pieces can be found along Adams Dairy Parkway. “Borbor 6.1” is at the corner of R.D. Mize Road and Adams Dairy Parkway. “Once Around the Block” is north of Napoleon Drive and Adams Dairy Parkway. “The Chase” is south of Adams Dairy and Napoleon. “Celebration” is south of Walnut Street and Adams Dairy.