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“Bicentennial Bison,” commonly known as “the buffalo,” was created by John Kearney from car bumpers.
By David Spencer | SJ-R
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Outdoor Exhibit
Take a stroll through the Art Association’s sculpture garden
By Kristi Eaton

The Springfield Art Association sculpture garden, on the grounds of Edwards Place, merges modern art with Lincoln-era history.

Featuring works by visiting and local artists as well as from art students from over the years, this public art garden is an added treat for anyone visiting the city's oldest home at 700 N. Fourth St. Among the works found here are "Bicentennial Bison," "True Love" and the latest addition, "Sybia."

A robot in form, "Sybia" is the creation of Springfield artist Travis Taylor. The 10-foot-tall sculpture is made mostly from broken-down motorcycle parts, including a gas tank for the head and an exhaust pipe extending down the back.

"Sybia" even comes with a back story. 

Last year after completing "Sybia," Taylor displayed it on the front lawn of his home on the 1000 block of North Fifth Street. It created such interest from passers-by that soon it began causing traffic problems along the street. People would stop to look at the artwork and neighbors began to complain. Eventually, city officials deemed the sculpture a hazard and that it violated zoning laws. 

Enter the Springfield Art Association of Edwards Place, which promotes and supports the arts with art classes for children and adults, an art library, art exhibitions and more. The organization, formed in 1909, also maintains the historic Edwards home.

The association last fall offered Taylor space in the garden to display "Sybia" so the artwork could be "a little more protected and not stopping traffic on city streets any longer," said Betsy Dollar, executive director of the association.

Taylor's sculpture is positioned near  "Bicentennial Bison," which was created by famed Chicago artist John Kearney using automobile bumpers. Commonly referred to as "the buffalo," the piece is a hit with kids, Dollar said. 

"He's become sort of the mascot image for our summer arts camp and the kids' School of Art here because it's probably one of the more fun pieces of art we have here," she said. 

Visitors are allowed to touch the artwork in the sculpture garden, but the association asks that people not climb on the buffalo, which was dedicated to the association in 1976. 

"It was climbed on over the years, but it's been sitting outside for 40 years so it's a little rusty around the edges," Dollar said. "We don't want anyone to cut themselves."

Dollar pointed out that Kearney fears his sculpture is becoming a lost art. The buffalo is 6 feet high and 4 feet long and formed from metal car bumpers, which are increasingly hard to find because car manufacturers make more and more bumpers out of lighter-weight - and non-metal - materials.

Among the other works visitors will find in the garden are "True Love," a contemporary steel sculpture depicting two people interlocked that was donated in 1997 by Pleasant Plains artist Paul Reimer; and a mosaic arch, bench and stepping stones created by summer school students under the direction of a visiting artist in the late 1970s.

 "The younger summer program students made the bench, the older students - middle and high school - made the arch and the adults made the stepping stones," Dollar said. 

The sculpture garden is free to stroll through.

Eventually, the association plans to expand the sculpture garden with more artwork, Dollar said, including purchased pieces and those displayed on a rotating basis.



Want to go?
The Springfield Art Association sculpture garden is on the grounds of Edwards Place, the historic home the SAA maintains and which also serves as the organization's base. The garden is free and open to the public.




Story published Friday, March 4, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 2 )

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