By Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Thanks to the work of two local artists, the aesthetic appeal of Downtown Norman has been enhanced with the addition of two new sculptures.
Pieces created by Norman artists, Jonathan Hils and Craig Swan, recently were installed on Main Street as part of the West Main Street Sculpture Project, a Norman Public Arts Board project. The sculptures were dedicated Friday night during a ceremony at MAINSITE gallery.
“These two sculptures, much like any piece of public art, helps the public to engage with their surroundings,” PAB chair Larry Walker said. “In other words, as a person stands and views a public piece of art they have their own emotional reaction to the piece. That’s what art does. So the more we have of that, in different styles, the better for the community.”
With themes that represent Oklahoma, Walker said the artists’ works are appropriate for the locations they were installed and add a “new dimension to the visual aspects of Downtown Norman.”
Hil’s sculpture, “Silver Lining,” is installed at Santa Fe Avenue and Main Street and is an abstract representation of Oklahoma weather. The piece ties together the ideas of Norman as both a weather research hub and dynamic artistic community. The cloud-themed piece, water-jet cut from solid steel plate, is shaped by a manipulation of Norman’s downtown city streets and is laid out as a weather vane.
As a sculpture professor at the University of Oklahoma, Hils has ample professional arts experience, but said displaying his work so close to home is a real treat. He hopes his work provides a sense of place for the community.
“A sense of wonder, a sense of being able to contemplate something that is new and different in their everyday lives and remind them that where they are is a special place,” said Hils, on what he hopes the public obtains from viewing his work.
Swan’s “Sun Dial,” installed at Webster Avenue and West Main Street, is comprised of three sheets of steel — made brick red with a chemical patina — welded together, featuring cutouts of scissor-tailed flycatchers that casts shadows on the surrounding sidewalk. Swan said he wants the public to be able to relate and engage with his work.
“I wanted something I was very happy with as well as something that people would like,” he said.
With three years under his belt teaching at the Firehouse Art Center, this is Swan’s first experience with a public art installment. Swan said he is grateful for the chance to be more fully integrated with the community thanks to this project.
Several more PAB projects are currently under way, including the addition of more duck sculptures in public parks, an OU student public art exhibit in Lions Park with Hil’s sculpture class, and an upcoming call for artists for artful bicycle racks. Walker said none of these projects would be possible without the ample support of the city of Norman.
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal spoke briefly during the dedication ceremony and said the city supports local arts because the arts both stimulate the local economy as well as provide a positive, enriching aspect to the local quality of life.
She said the city looks forward to working with local arts organizations like the PAB and Norman Arts Council to continue creating public art and arts opportunities.
“We’ve got big aspirations and the ability to move them from aspirations to reality is going to take some financing. But I think we’ll get there,” Rosenthal said. “There’s just so many opportunities around town in terms of public spaces to put public art, and to celebrate public art, that I think the possibilities are almost unlimited.”
Walker said there are several options for making donations to PAB. For one time donations, visit the Norman Arts Council website at www.normanarts.org or call 405-360-1162. Donations can also be added to city utility bills. Contact the city’s utility billing department at 405-366-5320 for more information.
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