Arts commission approves concept for $325,000 art piece for Lawrence police headquarters

photo by: Contributed

This is a concept that artist Joe O'Connell has created for the artwork he is commissioned to complete for the new Lawrence police headquarters. The concept features a pavilion with panels of stained-glass eyes between the support columns.

A $325,000 public art project for Lawrence’s new police headquarters received an approval from the local arts panel and will now be considered by city leaders.

As part of its meeting Wednesday evening, the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission voted 9-0 to recommend the project for approval. The project will now go to the Lawrence City Commission for consideration.

Following a national request for qualifications, the city selected Joe O’Connell, of Tucson, Ariz., two years ago from more than 40 artists to create the art at the new police headquarters, 5100 Overland Drive. O’Connell is expected to complete the $325,000 project this year.

The work includes artistic depictions of eyes, and O’Connell told the arts commission the depictions would be based on the real eyes of people of various ages and races and would also express different emotions. With community policing in mind, O’Connell said the idea was to encourage police officers to better understand the point of view of the community and vice versa.

“It seems like it’s a great thing to support both the officers and community,” O’Connell said.

The piece is a pavilion crafted from a single piece of stainless steel with a domed, open roof, as the Journal-World previously reported. Just below the roofline and above arches that connect the pavilion’s supporting columns will be a ring of panels with depictions of eyes. The pavilion will be placed southwest of the police station in what’s being called a minipark.

photo by: Contributed rendering

This is a concept that artist Joe O’Connell has created for the artwork he is commissioned to complete for the new Lawrence police headquarters.

Arts commission member Denise Stone said she had heard from someone who didn’t particularly like the eyes in light of the ongoing national conversation about policing and police reform, and she wanted to know how the city might be able to get more public feedback on the proposal.

Communications and Creative Resources Director Porter Arneill said that though there had been two public meetings about the proposal, they were not well attended and the city did not get much feedback. O’Connell said that while he did have one police officer in the department offer a photo of his eyes for the project, he is looking for more eyes of community members to represent the concept of community policing and empathy.

Before voting to recommend the project for approval, the arts commission members agreed that they thought it would be important for the piece to have some information or labeling that explained the symbolism and intention of the project.

Another aspect of the project that the arts commission discussed was the light sculpture at the center of the pavilion, which will have cut-out patterns that will project images onto the ground. O’Connell said he would be looking to get more input from the community regarding what those images or patterns should be.

The project is funded by the city’s long-standing Percent for Art program, which allows city leaders to set aside up to 2% of a building project’s budget for public art. The funding is a percentage of the city’s $19.9 million police headquarters project. The parkland, which currently has a walking trail, is also the site of a future park, and the proposal is for the piece to be at an entrance to the trail.

The proposal for the project will go to the Lawrence City Commission for final consideration at an upcoming meeting.


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