Over the course of the past four years, you might have noticed a sculpture or two crop up in some unlikely places around Springfield. But these larger-than-life sculptures aren’t happenstance. They belong to Sculpture Walk Springfield, the first and only rotating art program in Springfield—and it’s quickly becoming one of the largest in the Midwest.
The project began five years ago when two families from the Ozarks visited different cities and witnessed firsthand the positive effect an interactive art exhibit could have on a community. “When you see a community that is economically healthy, there’s public art displayed,” says Nicole Brown, executive director of the Walk. Inspired by the possibility of a similar exhibit for Springfield, the art community set a plan into motion to expand its reach. A couple years and a few road blocks later, the first Sculpture Walk debuted in April of 2016 with 14 sculptures in total.
Today, the Walk showcases 31 sculptures hand-picked each February by a selection committee composed of a mixture of art enthusiasts, businesspeople, community leaders and local artists. The Walk sends out a call to artists each fall, drawing interest from all over the country and even beyond U.S. borders. “We’ve had submissions from the Middle East, Europe, South America, but we haven’t had a ton of international pieces displayed because the shipping is hard,” Brown says. The selection process for the exhibit includes a series of questions: Is the artwork appropriate for the city? Will it last a year in the outside environment? Does the piece have artistic integrity? If the committee can answer yes to all three questions, then the lucky piece makes its way to the streets. “We want a good variety of art pieces; we want something for an art lover, [something] for children and something for those that aren’t interested in abstract or concept art,” Brown says.
The Walk also works closely with the MSU sculpture program, designating at least one spot for a student piece to be featured each year. This season, the committee selected four. “The craftsmanship is amazing for just beginning their career,” Brown says. “They’re really ambitious with the skills they have.”
The long-term goal of the Sculpture Walk is to connect the entire city with sculptures, an impressive task that Brown is hopeful the organization achieves. “Whenever you see a sculpture, we want you to see the next one,” Brown says of her desire to make art more prevalent throughout the city. With increasing community support, it just might be possible.