CHICKASHA, OK.- On April 16, 2012, a 1,500 pound, stainless steel sculpture by renown sculptor, Archie Held was installed at the entrance of the community's historic depot. The official dedication of the sculpture will be September 28, 2012 during the communitys arts festival.
Chickasha, a rural Oklahoma town of 16,500, turned a $10,000 NEA Community Fast Track grant into a sculpture project worth $80,000 through various avenues of community and state support. Thanks to the vision and commitment of the Chickasha Area Arts Council, the Chickasha community and several partnerships, the two-year project is now complete.
"When I read of museums, galleries, colleges installing large-scale sculptures, it almost feels like having public art is out of reach for a small community, Chickasha Public Art Project Director Julie Bohannon said, "And, as an art advocate from a rural area, I struggled to see how public art can be brought into a community with reduced resources."
Bohannon and other members of the Arts Council were involved in community planning activities and made the vital connections within the city government and city council. These connections led to partnerships that allowed the Arts Council to install two public art projects funded in part by the Oklahoma Arts Council and the City of Chickasha.
The art installations and community partnerships provided the confidence for the council to apply for NEA Community Fast Track grant.
In 2010, the Chickasha Area Arts Council received the only NEA community grant given to Oklahoma in the form of a $10,000 award. It was immediately leveraged with state arts council funds, city funds, local and regional foundation grants. The Chickasha community supplied in-kind donations for concrete, artist housing and construction management services for the site preparation.
"I met Archie Held when he worked with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma [USAO] to install wonderful pieces in front of the college's library. I felt that he had the wonderful ability to capture a 'sense of place' within a beautifully graceful form. When I asked if he would be the grant project's design lead, I was delighted when he agreed to participate," Bohannon said.
Completing the design team were emerging Oklahoma artists, Eric Baker, Dustin Boise, and Kolbe Roper who provided additional design elements to be integrated in the second installment phase of the around the sculpture. Cecil Lee, Emeritus Professor of Art at USAO provided the team historical and cultural context for the sculpture's design and setting.
"I wanted the sculpture to be dynamic and to speak to the community," said Held, "I hope the piece will become a focal point for the establishment of an arts district in the downtown area."
Held is an internationally recognized artist who has been creating sculpture since the 1970s. Held works primarily in bronze and stainless steel and in 2006, Art in America's juried competition named his piece "Burden Basket" one of the top twenty public art pieces in America. His sculptures are found in many public, corporate, and private collections throughout the world.