Very quietly, albeit with the efforts of dozens if not hundreds a people, Decatur during the last decade or so has built an impressive collection of public art works.
These works include, but aren't limited to, downtown sculptures, murals, benches, and even the stairway in the Decatur Area Arts Council. Lincoln tributes mix with pop art throughout the city. Military memorials and tributes abound.
The last decade-plus has merely marked the explosion of public art in our city. Predating the birth of many of our readers, the Fairview Park bikini tree has been amusing those who walk by it since at least the 1950s.
The two-year-old Scovill Sculpture Park is the home to 10 new pieces of art, unveiled Saturday night as a ceremony.
As is the case with the other public arts in Decatur, the new sculptures represent a mix of content and styles. Among the efforts were an oversized dog playing with a ball created by Travis Emmen of New Plymouth, Idaho. Emmen said he's seen living dogs bark at his effort. A modern work called “Calibration” is in the park, along with a detailed bison sculpture effort. Other efforts feature an oversized hand, a human with a bird, geometric shapes and what appears to be a topiary carving.
In June 2016, the Buffett Foundation announced a $250,000 grant to create the park. It opened later that summer, and the Decatur Parks Foundation is using the remaining money to continue commissioning new pieces every three years.
Artists received a $3,000 commission to bring their work to the site, Emmen said, and they will take them back in three years to make way for the next round of pieces, unless visitors buy them before then.
The parks foundation is also selling $5,000 sponsorships of each work. Seven have been sold.
As parks foundation board member Brian Byers told the Herald & Review's Tom Lisi, his push for more public art in the Decatur area over the past few years took some convincing among residents and local leaders, but the skepticism passed once people saw the results.
One of the best things about the effort is how quickly and almost subversively observing the works can make someone an appreciator of the arts. You might not like all of the artworks, but you're bound to appreciate some. That automatically at least makes you an arts observer, and that's a step toward widening your world and opening your mind.
The public displays are helping all of us learn more about one another. And they're opening our eyes.
We should all fully embrace that.