by: Jessie Cartwright
Above the propelled motion and arcing energy of skateboarders, a tall assemblage of found objects spin and turn in the wind with similar physics. At closer view, these colorful objects reveal familiar Prairie Village street signs, skateboard decks, axles and wheels, and layered traffic sign fragments. The 22 foot tall Harmon Skate Park Sculpture, a.k.a. the Windmill sculpture, was designed and constructed by Rhett Johnson in 2005.
Curious about Rhett’s creative process, I spoke with Rhett who initially explored the Harmon Skate Park environment where he envisioned a tall, wind-driven sculpture with motion integral to the design. Rhett chose an old Gulf gas station signpost, divided at the top like the letter “Y”, to support two moving structures, each with a central axel. Next, Rhett strategically angled Prairie Village street signs tipped with skateboard decks on the top of each section to create the rotor blades. Rhett described these sections as “two levels of motion, two different directions, at two different speeds,” a remarkable kinetic engineering feat. Rhett added sign sections that move like a wind vane, and rows of wheels along the curve of the signpost.
Rhett also explained the history behind the sculpture commission from the Prairie Village Municipal Foundation, initiated by Kathy Peterson at his farm/studio. After the 2001 City Council skate park proposal, an Ad Hoc Committee was formed to help raise funds. Parents and local, as well as metro students, embarked on an arduous, two-year grassroots fundraising campaign.
Avid PV skateboarders Jake Shepard and Andy Peterson, among the hard-working fundraisers that also included Kathy Peterson, ultimately raised over $60,000. Kathy recalled, “These kids did not give up. They learned so much about teamwork, perseverance, purpose, and life in the process.” Jake’s terminal illness did not prevent him from fundraising, though he would not see the finished skate park. Rhett tailored a compartment for a time capsule in the signpost that included Jake’s shirt and other contents.
Rhett characterizes his sculptures as “bespoke” or custom made, which he further articulates as “old yet new, unique but commonplace, found and fabricated, evocative and nostalgic, kinetic and static, retro and modern.” To see all the hallmarks of Rhett’s unique, self-taught style, you can view his impressive resume of public sculptures, and solo or group exhibitions at RhettJohnson.com.
The Harmon Skate Park recently opened after a summer of renovation that included the temporary removal of the Skate Park Sculpture. In the final concept design, the Harmon Skate Park Sculpture was reinstalled in a special memorial area of the new skate park.
by: Nancy Kalikow Maxwell
Calling all artists with a heart – or at least those with the ability to design one. Parade of Hearts, a new community initiative, is inviting submissions of artistic renderings of the Kansas City heart for display at their forthcoming Parade of Hearts to be held from March to May 2022. This regional event will showcase local artists by selecting and placing 150-200 “beautiful, inspiring Heart Sculptures” throughout the KC region.
According to their website, anyone and everyone who considers him or herself an artist is invited to participate. “Parade of Hearts was not created ‘for’ the Kansas City region but ‘by’ and ‘with’ those people and organizations that are related to a community: students, parents, families, artists, partner organizations, schools, government agencies, beneficiaries, and more.” Those wanting to “share your heart with the heartland,” must apply by September 4, 2021. For more details, click HERE.
by: Jessie Cartwright
After months of planning, a rain-out, and a rescheduled date with high temps, the first Prairie Village Art Walk was held on June 18 with a small group that took the heat in stride. Mayor Mikkelson, Arts Council Chair Bonnie Limbird, and volunteers, families, and members of the community gathered in the shade at The Homesteaders at 5:30 pm. It was clear from the atmosphere of excitement that social interaction ensuing after months of isolation was welcomed. Following introductions, conversation, handshakes, and photos, our short journey began.
We walked to Fluid Form and demonstrated how to use the QR Code on the placard (at the base of the sculpture) to download Otocast and locate the Prairie Village Art Walk. We then listened to the artist, Jacob Burmood, describe Fluid Form. A few participants were engaged in answering the placard question “If this sculpture was music, what would it sound like?” Some diverse analogies were Beach Boys Good Vibrations, Mozart, or Scott Joplin’s ragtime! For me, it was Jean-Pierre Rampal and Claude Bolling’s Suite for Jazz and Piano.
By 6:00 pm we reached our final destination, Fifties Freedom In The Village, where we were joined by a larger community group including sculptor E. Spencer Schubert and donor Brad Johnson. Also present were artists Richard Lumpkin (Prairie Boy), and Phil and Holly of Syke Style (Connections at Corinth). Members of BikeWalkKC set up an information tent to educate the public about “redefining our streets as a place for people to build a culture of active living.” Deputy City Administrator Jamie Robichaud and Assistant City Administrator Meghan Buum organized the dedication space with a microphone, tent, and bottled water. Mayor Mikkelson provided acknowledgements before the formal dedication and ribbon cutting. By 6:30, we dispersed for air conditioning.
While our summer is in full swing, I have discovered the best time to take the Art Walk challenge is around 7:00 a.m., when the traffic is light and the air is still cool. Water is essential, but a good cup of coffee or treat reward can be found at the Village or Corinth shops. The placards with artist information will be removed August 1st, though you can still download the free Otocast app and search for the Prairie Village Art Walk at any time. The Otocast tour is a unique feature of the Prairie Village Art Walk that can be used any time of the year with artist recordings, artwork information, and site links to artists or the Prairie Village Arts Council.