New group of sculptures in historic Liberty bring flair to downtown

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“Social Tones” by Nathan Pierce, located at the intersection of Franklin and Gallatin streets, across from the Rotary Plaza
Image source: Liberty Arts Commission Facebook

On a recent trip to Liberty’s historic town square, you may have noticed several new sculptures. The rotating sculpture display is in its third year. The Liberty Arts Commission, per their website states that “We serve as a catalyst – to support, sustain, and strengthen our community by increasing awareness, opportunities, and public involvement in local arts and cultural activities”

What started out with only one sculpture in 2017 has grown to nine in the current year. The sculptures are located throughout the downtown Liberty area, with one located on three out of the four corners of the square, one located next to the Clay County Archives building and three around City Hall and the police station. This group of sculptures will stay up until September of next year when a new group will take their places.

The sculpture program is an attempt to connect Liberty residents with art, both local and national. The current group of sculptures comes from across the country. Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Missouri, Michigan, New Mexico and Washington D.C are represented.

Illinois artist Jaci Willis and “Tangerine Day Dreams” at the corner of Franklin and Water St. of Liberty, MO
image source: Liberty Arts Commission Facebook page

The sculptures this year are all made of steel varieties, with some including other materials like stained glass, enamel and concrete. While most of the sculptures are neutral in color, some are vibrantly colored with red, green, blue and orange. Given the steel material, most of the sculptures are quite modern, providing juxtaposition with the 19th century town square. The mix of the old and new shows both cognizance of both the past and future on the part of Liberty, something that gives both visitors and residents a glimpse at the town’s values.

In addition to choosing and guiding the installation process for the sculptures, the Liberty Arts Commission has created an app called Otocast with which one can follow a walking tour of the nine sculptures. Aside from guiding the walking tour, the app also lets individuals vote on their favorite sculpture. The arts commission then chooses the highest rated sculpture to purchase for permanent display.

The most recent purchased sculpture, “Open Heart” by Matthew Duffy, is now exhibited in Canterbury Park, located off of Withers Road.

The installation process for each sculpture was documented by the arts commission and posted to their Facebook page, providing the general public with pictures of the artist with their work and tidbits of information about each sculpture.

The process for applying to display a sculptures is quite rigorous. For the 2019 application, artists had to submit the artist’s name, an entry title, media, dimensions and weight, date completed, description of each entry, value, three digital images of each submitted work, artist statement and brief artist biography, current professional resume and proof of insurance.

Additionally, the commission asked artists to consider materials, durability and safety in creating their work, given the outdoor and public nature of the display.

While each individual artist was responsible for transporting and installing their work in Liberty, the arts commission did offer a $2,000 honorarium to defray costs. The artist is allowed to sell the work during the time in which it is displayed, but the work cannot be taken until after the year-long display period is over.

Southeast Missouri artist Ben Pierce and “Reach” at the corner of Main & East Kansas St.-Liberty, MO
Image source: Liberty Arts Commission Facebook page

The commission worked diligently this year to ensure the installation of each sculpture had finished before the start of the annual Liberty Fall Festival, happening the weekend of Sept. 27. There, the sculptures can be admired by the thousands of visitors the town receives for the festival, and the arts commission will be able to promote themselves at their festival booth.

The sculpture program is a great way to introduce Liberty to new local and national art, beautify the city and serve as one of the many ways the arts commission shows the city’s support and appreciation of the arts. 

Elliott Yoakum

Elliott is a senior Oxbridge literature and theory major and women and gender studies minor. He is the editor for Arts and Culture. In his spare time, he enjoys playing ragtime

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