Lawrence City Commission to consider design concept for $340,000 art installation for police headquarters

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.

Lawrence city leaders will soon consider whether to approve the concept for a public art installation at the city’s new police headquarters.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider the concept design for the $340,000 project, which calls for a metal pavilion with panels of colorful glass and light projections.

If the commission approves the concept design, the artist will further refine the concept and move into the next phase of the project, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The installation will be located in the park next to the police headquarters, and the next phase will include working with Parks and Recreation staff to further develop the artwork and generate engineered working drawings for city review. The final step will be the fabrication and delivery of the artwork to the new police headquarters, 5100 Overland Drive.

The city issued a national request for qualifications for the project, and selected the artist, Joe O’Connell, of Tucson, Ariz., two years ago from about 40 artists. The city previously budgeted $340,000 for the project, which breaks down to $325,000 for the artist contract and $15,000 for site work. The site work will include a concrete pad and a low-voltage electrical conduit, according to the memo.

The Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission voted unanimously to recommend the project for approval in July, as the Journal-World reported. The work would use colored glass to create 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. A sphere-shaped light sculpture at the center of the pavilion would have cut-out patterns that would project images onto the ground.

An eight-person panel comprising an arts commission member, community members, and police, municipal services and parks and recreation officials selected O’Connell and his design and fabrication firm Creative Machines for the project in 2019. The firm creates interactive exhibits, ball machines and large-scale artwork, and has created works for museums, science centers, libraries, hospitals, university campuses, transit stops and other public spaces, according to the Creative Machines website.

The memo states that O’Connell got insight on the project from the artist selection panel, city and police staff, feedback from the community and a site visit. The proposed concept was presented during two public meetings held virtually on June 26, and it went to the arts commission for consideration in July.

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 Lawrence City Commission will meet virtually at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, and some staff will be in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The public may attend the meeting in person at City Hall or participate virtually by following directions included in the commission’s meeting agenda, which is available on the city’s website,


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