Elizabeth "Moe" Goetz giggled Saturday evening as she approached a recent addition to the landscape east of the Lawrence Public Library a cast iron sink atop a steel tower.
"It always makes me smile," said Goetz, a library volunteer who's been enjoying the artwork, part of the 2002 Outdoor-Downtown Sculpture Exhibition, since it was recently installed along the 700 block of Vermont Street.
Goetz and more than 50 others joined Dana Self, who juried this year's exhibit, for a Saturday evening tour of the eight sculptures she selected from 51 entries to be placed in various downtown locations for the next year. Self commented briefly on each piece and allowed the few artists who were there to speak about their work as well.
"I really believe in public sculpture," said Self, curator at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Mo. "It's really important for art to be out in the community and be recognized."
Although one of the sculptures already has been struck by vandals it was repaired in time for Saturday's tour that doesn't mean the work isn't meant to be touched and interacted with. Self ran her hands over most of the work as she spoke of its textures and propensity to engage passers-by.
A few inquisitive tourists approached the twisted, pitted stone sculpture perched on a pedestal at the corner of Seventh and Massachusetts streets, stroking its rough surface and asking how much it weighed.
"I want to light one end of it, see if it grows," joked exhibition committee chairman Jeff Ridgway, referring to the sculpture's resemblance to the black pellets children light on the Fourth of July and watch emerge into glowing snakes.
Jim Patti, the Lawrence man who 15 years ago conceived of the outdoor sculpture exhibition and pitched the idea to city commissioners, said he was thrilled to see so many people on the tour and interested in the beautiful objects that will be a part of Lawrence until this time next year.
"It's been real exciting," he said. "It's been a piece that has added something to downtown Lawrence that you wouldn't find someplace else."
Artist Kermit Gilbert traveled all the way from Painted Post, N.Y., to take part in Saturday's tour. His winning entry, "Stainless Steel #1," which looks like an industrial birdhouse, juts up into the trees outside the library.
"I really support the idea of public art," he said.