"Prairie Boy" sculpture by Richard Lumpkin
by: Jessie Cartwright
Near the entrance road to the Prairie Village Municipal Complex, a young male appears seated, hat in hand, under the shade of an oak tree, engaged in thought. What is he pondering?
Prairie Boy’s historical context deepens our understanding and connection, and encourages our empathy for the pioneer migrator’s journey in search of opportunity, or a new beginning. By the 1850s, the swales identified in Harmon Park were deep, defined ruts in the ground, worn by thousands of cattle, oxen, and wagons on the Santa Fe thoroughfare. Return to Prairie Boy’s narrative, and imagine he has confidently arrived at the decision to settle here.
Originally, Prairie Boy was commissioned by the Prairie Village Bicentennial Committee, and the Municipal Arts Commission, led by Mayor William E. Franklin (1973-1979), to commemorate the 200th
Anniversary of the United States, and the 25th Anniversary of Prairie Village. In a conversation with Richard, he explained that as a member of the Arts Commission, he was encouraged by those around him to take on this prodigious project, though as a commercial artist he had no experience with the lost wax method of bronze casting. Humorously, Richard recalled that in the span of a year his kitchen became a studio with 90lbs. of wax, which was often explored by the family siamese cat and ornamented with holiday decorations, before Prairie Boy was finally transported to a local foundry.
By the spring of 1978, Prairie Boy was cast in bronze, and a dedication was planned for April 15. To Richard’s surprise, a large group of community members gathered for the dedication. A spontaneous celebration followed with Richard’s family and community members afterwards.
Richard enjoyed reminiscing about Prairie Boy, whose legacy includes newspaper photos with a small television on a lawn chair placed in front of him, or a coat draped over his shoulders on a cool fall day. Richard explained that at one time, the Shawnee Mission East Track Team ritually touched the top of Prairie Boy’s head for strength and endurance. Prairie Boy’s legacy continues as one of the sculptures in the Prairie Village Art Walk that begins June 11, 2021.
"Connections at Corinth" mural by Phil "Sike Style" Shafer
by: Nancy Kalikow Maxwell
When you think of a construction site, images of cranes, debris and scaffolding usually come to mind. But the folks at First Washington Realty (FWR) had something else in mind when they began planning their Corinth Quarter shopping center redevelopment project at 83rd and Mission Rd. Why not create a mural that would both beautify the area and serve as a distraction from the forthcoming construction mess?
To accomplish this goal, they began interviewing a number of artists, then selected Phil “Sike Style” Shafer, for the project. “His vision best aligned with our ethos and the neighborhood,” said Wright Sigmund, Senior Vice President and National Director of Leasing at FWR, whose company hired Shafer to transform the brick walls of the building near the construction project into colorful imagery for the Prairie Village neighborhood.
“They wanted to create a colorful, eye-catching work,” says Shafer, “something that will distract from the renovated building and serve as a secret photo opportunity.” What Shafer ended up creating did not disappoint.
The mural that he created, entitled “Connections at Corinth,” is a vibrant, geometrically-themed set of panels wrapping around the building bookended by Tide Cleaners on one side and Panera Bread on the other. Color was one of Shafer’s most important considerations for the piece. Orange was selected as a “shout-out to the Tide place” and blue as a complementary hue. These “surprising colors” –to use his words-- were intended to grab the attention of people picking up their lunch at Panera Bread or doing their laundry. Shafer also sought to capture the attention of children who frequent the nearby office building that houses Playabilities, a pediatric occupational, physical and speech therapy center, and Village Pediatrics.
Geometric shapes were also chosen for the piece to effectively play off the architecture of the space. As Shafer describes it, “the work has an abstract, constructionist early Twentieth Century European feel to it, if you want to get all art school about it.” Shafer earned the ability to toss about such phrases by attending the Kansas City Art Institute, but his artistic interests pre-date that formal education. “I’ve been an artist since I was four years old,” he explains, when his parents first recognized and began nurturing his talents. Since then, Shafer has been a professional artist for 21 years, serving for 17 years as the graphic designer at the KU Medical Center before retiring from there in 2018.
“I’ve been interested in public art all my life,” says Shafer, who has won art commissions from numerous schools, governments, and commercial establishments. His work has been featured in campaigns with The Royals, The Kansas City Chiefs, and he was showcased as the featured artist for an Oakley activation at Super Bowl LV in Tampa. Shafer looks forward to new projects planned across Kansas for 2021.
But Shafer is not abandoning the completed Corinth Quarter project. Rather, he now wants to hear how his mural has become an interactive photo space. “I’m hoping it has become an Instagrammer’s playground, a backdrop for whatever fun families want to have taking pictures, getting creative with their outfits, or producing dance videos.”
FWR also hopes visitors will engage with the artwork and encourages the community to use the mural as a photo background and tag Corinth Quarter on Instagram and Facebook @corinthquarter.
In this way, Prairie Village residents will be able to continue enjoying the mural, while hopefully ignoring the construction site mess.
For more information about the artist, visit www.sikestyle.com. Follow @sikestyle on Instagram.
If you Instagram this fun new mural, tag @pvartscouncil and @sikestyle, too!!
Read more about public art in Prairie Village here.
“The Fallen Soldier” Sculpture by Richard Rist