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Archive for Thursday, August 13, 1998

LOCAL ARTISTS FIND THE CITY RECEPTIVE TO ALL TYPES OF PUBLIC ART.

August 13, 1998

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Of the people, by the people, for the people ...

Lawrence artist Dave Loewenstein takes those constitutional words to heart when he designs murals and mosaics in his east Lawrence studio.

``I'm always trying to create beautiful artwork and involving the community as much as possible,'' he said.

Loewenstein and a bevy of local artists are committed to the idea that everyone should be free to exercise their right to view art; whether it's obvious enough to trip over in the street or tucked away in small corners. Art is everywhere, and one need not pay admission to a gallery or museum to find cerebral snacks.

Loewenstein was responsible for one of the first exterior building murals in Lawrence. Titled ``Sunflower Cycle,'' the mural took shape in 1992 and still covers the back outdoor wall of Quinton's, 615 Mass.

``I decided since it was my first mural that it had better be about Kansas and it had better be likable,'' he said. ``I found the different stages of the Sunflower really beautiful.''

Ownership in the art

Loewenwstein engaged the help of friends to complete the project, then took the idea to a larger scale when he expanded his repertoire of concrete canvasses.

He has works on permanent display at the Community Mercantile, 901 Miss., on the side of buildings on Massachusetts Street, at the East Lawrence Recreation Center, 1245 E. 15th St. and just completed a series of murals in Great Bend.

``With permanent public works I try to get as many people involved as possible,'' Loewenstein said. ``That way they feel part ownership in it.''

For artist Ardys Ramberg, the joy is collaborative, though she tends to work alone. Her giant fish sculpture is on display at the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza Factory Outlets and her sculpture ``Ballad of Brook Creek'' is part of the fixtures at the East Lawrence Recreation Center.

She got the idea for the giant fish because the outlets overlook the Kansas River and she wanted a piece reflective of that theme.

``I wanted it to appeal to everyone,'' she said. ``That's something that's hard for public art. I wanted to make it recognizable so that's why I chose a fish, but I also wanted people who like abstract art to like it as well.''

Artistic community

Lawrence is receptive to the idea of art, abstract or otherwise, Ramberg said.

``Our city has more people in it who are interested in having public art than your average city,'' she said. ``I would like for us to be like Paris or Florence where it's everywhere you turn, but you see, it's my religion.''

Ramberg said some of her favorite art isn't even on the street or hanging on walls in restaurants and retail shops; it's in the yards and on the houses of common people who express their personal taste with bowling balls, tinsel, rickety fence posts and spray-painted cars.

``I see more creative artists' work in yards and creative ideas in so many different ways,'' she said.

The reason: competition, Ramberg said.

``I believe the artists in this community feel comfortable because there are other artists in the community and we egg each other on,'' she said. ``We encourage each other.''

Artist Jon Havener, whose works can be found on the posts inside Free State Brewing Company, 636 Mass., and inside and outside Teller's 746 Mass., is working on a mixed metal tallgrass prairie sculpture scheduled to be installed at the Prairie Park Nature Center in southeast Lawrence this fall.

For him, how the community receives his work plays a role in how he plans his projects.

``With any public work, that comes into play,'' he said. ``How will the public interact with it? There has to be safety, longevity and soundness of material. I want people to touch it and look at it.''

Havener said when he designed the columns near the bar inside Free State, he knew there were in a high traffic area.

``I knew they would get hit and nicked,'' he said. ``The more they get banged up the better they look. Over a lifetime they get richer and richer.''

Appreciating art doesn't mean one has to like it, Havener said.

``People feel that because it's in a public domain it should be a positive thing for everybody,'' he said. ``But if it raises people's consciousness, that's something, too, even if they don't like it.''

While Havener almost always drops into museums when he travels, he is much more interested in bumping into something on the street.

``People are busy,'' he said. ``They aren't going to take the time to go to a museum. If you bring art to the people they're confronted by it. If they stumble over it, but safely, it makes it easier to bump up against it in some way. If something inspires somebody in some way, that's enough.''

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is jwatson@ljworld.com.

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