There’s nothing quite like visiting a new place and noticing beautiful pieces of art about town – or simply moving through the day and noticing artwork that raises the spirits. These encounters can be discouragingly rare, but the city of Edmond has changed that for their residents and visitors.
“The places that I’ve seen public art, it always sort of lifted the atmosphere, lifted the civility of the area. People just generally seemed happier, quite frankly,” says Randel Shadid, the former Edmond mayor who is a self-proclaimed public art enthusiast and one of the founders of Edmond’s Art in Public Places program. It celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
In April, a bronze sculpture titled Reverence by David Pearson, a Santa Fe-based artist, was the latest public art installation in Edmond’s Mitch Park. Reverence joins 260 other works of art all over the city. Many of the pieces are concentrated in Edmond’s historic downtown district, but they can be found all around town. Walking and bus tours are available through the City of Edmond, and all the displays are accessible to the public – as it’s one of the requirements of the program.
“It’s meant for people to be able to walk up to it and see it and be accessible to anyone in the public,” says Shadid.
The program is a partnership between private donors and the city. An individual selects the art and the location and arranges to pay half of the price. The city’s Visual Arts Commission, an appointed volunteer board, then approves the art and location and pays the other half of the cost (up to $30,000). The city then owns the piece and is responsible for installation, maintenance and any necessary repairs.
Patricia Carlisle owns an art gallery in Santa Fe where David Pearson’s sculptures – seven in total – were purchased for the city of Edmond. Carlisle has watched the growth of the Edmond program and believes it provides high value to the city.
“[Public art] enriches the day-to-day lives of everybody walking around Edmond, whether you’re downtown, whether you’re at a bank, whether you’re at a park, on a side street … all of sudden there’s this bronze,” she says. “It’s going to enrich the lives of current generations and future generations. It’s just an amazingly positive thing.”
The bulk of the outdoor art is bronze sculptures, and it depicts all kinds of subject matter, including animals, people and abstract art. Since each piece is selected by the donor, many different styles and preferences are represented.
The future of the program includes statues placed in a new public park coming to Edmond in the next few years, according to Shadid. And as the driving force behind the project, he says he has a straightforward approach to the reasons behind it.
“It’s hard to be mad at someone when you’re driving down the road or walking down Broadway downtown and you see a beautiful piece, or you see a really happy piece or a funny piece,” says Shadid.
The Driving Force
What was the impetus for this program? In a word: civility. Shadid noticed a recurring theme while traveling.
“When I see public art in places, it just is a whole different dynamic for the community. It raises the level of civility in your community,” he says.
Love of art got Shadid started on Art in Public Places, but his commitment to Edmond and his desire to make the city a nice place to visit and a nice place to live made it worth the time and investment.
“[Public art] enhances the aesthetic of the city tremendously and I think it improves people’s attitudes when they’re out and about and see it,” he says.