The city of O’Fallon is looking to put fine art on a pedestal, literally, with its new, traveling sculpture series.
The Shape of Community is a citywide, temporary sculpture exhibition that would feature a variety of large-scale works of art in prominent areas throughout the city. All works would be loaned by artists for an 18-month period that would extend until March 2020. As of now, the city plans to install art on nine city-owned locations, including city parks and near its Municipal Centre.
The city’s desire to showcase art in the community has been discussed since the 1980s, but for Cultural Arts Coordinator Darren Granaas, true interest began closer to 2001 when the city of O’Fallon reached out to St. Peters about their then-new cultural arts program with the goal of creating a similar art-focused experience for O’Fallon residents.
The city started with the creation of a community band, local theater branch and art classes. By 2015, it was devising a master plan for expanding its artistic endeavors with help from city councilmembers.
“I want to say about three years ago Councilmember Rose Mack [District 2] had the idea,” Granaas said. “We’d had talked a bit about eventually creating a master plan and things like that. Councilmember Mack kind of spearheaded that and said it would be great to look into doing some public sculptures.”
The idea was the foundation for the current The Shape of Community program. According to Granaas, funding for the endeavor came from the O’Fallon Convention and Visitor Bureau [OCVB] through the city, with additional funding coming from grants from entities like the Missouri Arts Council.
“We figured, ‘OK, now that we’ve got the seed money, let’s go ahead and start with what the community wants and go from there [and] develop a cultural arts plan,’” Granaas said.
To determine exactly what residents want, the city held town hall meetings and implemented questionnaires and surveys to gather community input. By 2016, the Art and Culture Plan was created to expand and facilitate programming opportunities centered around art and culture. One of its many goals was to help foster “the commissioning, acquisition, presentation and preservation of permanent and temporary public art.”
In addition to serving as a guide for new programs, the plan also discussed expansions and improvements to current city programs, such as O’FallonTheatreWorks and the multiple collections at the city’s Cultural Arts Gallery at Renaud Spirit Center.
However, according to Granaas, the idea of community sculptures was specifically identified as a desire in the community.
“The main thrust of it all was, ‘let’s bring in public sculptures’ because that’s something that the public wanted, and one of the items people really wanted to see done,” Granaas said. “That registered really high in the rankings. It was actually number one.”
The city sent out a Request for Proposals for the project, with submissions due by May 4. According to Granaas, about 11 requests have been submitted thus far from artists in states like Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania.
The diversity of the program doesn’t stop with its applicants.
“We purposefully left out a ‘type’ of art in our program because we want a diverse range,” Granaas said. “Maybe we see some traditional, some made of bronze and some more modern.”
The O’Fallon Cultural Arts Commission [CAC] will serve as the selection committee and score each submission in advance. Final selections will be presented for review by the OCVB and approval by the city council. Based on the works selected, specific locations will be determined by the CAC and managing consultants, with input from city’s Parks and Recreation staff. Approval would be granted based on technical reviews by the city council.
The goal is to have OCVB reviews underway by June and for the city council to review and approve the selected works. Artists contracts would then be drawn up, with artwork delivery and installation slated for August.
The chosen pieces would be de-installed by March 2020, followed by a six-month lull dedicated to repairing and maintaining the concrete pads and sending out another call for artists. By then, the hope is to add two extra sculpture locations in Dames Park and Civic Park.
Another goal for Granaas is to expand involvement to surrounding businesses and agencies who may want to get involved in the future.
“If all goes well with this first round and we’re getting interest from the hospitals or the libraries, or some bigger corporations who want to participate, we can incorporate them into the fold, too,” Granaas said.