Project will grace parking structure.Columbia’s next public art project will likely be a nod toward the city’s interest in sustainability, said Stuart Keeler, the artist and sculptor chosen for the job.
Earlier this year, the Standing Committee on Public Art chose Keeler to design the city’s 11th Percent for Art project for the parking garage under construction at Sixth and Walnut streets.
The eight-story, $14 million garage is expected to be completed this fall. Possible designs for the art project could be submitted for review within the next few weeks, said Marie Hunter, manager of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
Percent for Art is a city program that sets aside 1 percent of the costs of major construction projects for commissioning artists to design a work for the site. The city’s contract with Keeler specifies that he will be paid $110,000 to design, create and install the artwork.
Keeler, 39, who has a master’s degree in sculpture from the Art Institute of Chicago, has been a self-employed artist for 18 years. The Canada native, who lives in Atlanta, has work displayed across the country — at San Diego International Airport, the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center in Washington and the St. Cloud Public Library in Minnesota.
Keeler has spent the past month not only researching possible materials but asking local people about their ideas of sustainability in Columbia. “I want to get a feel for what the future is because I think that is the audience to some degree,” he said.
He plans to incorporate the idea of sustainability either through concept or material and will link to the car or other modes of transportation. He said what attracted him to the project was the nature of the site itself.
“It’s a parking garage, and that’s always been interesting to me,” he said. “This is a good opportunity to explore that and to make the building more memorable to some degree in a good way.”
Hunter said Keeler’s proven ability to make relevant and insightful public art was a major factor in the selection process. “Clearly in past work, he has had success with incorporating the significance of the particular site to what he does,” she said.
Beyond theme, Keeler also is interested in public space and its relationship to art, something he likes to take advantage of.
For this reason, he said he is considering the northeast corner of the site as a potential spot for the artwork. There, the art would not only be adjacent to one of the garage’s glass elevator towers but would also face the post office, guaranteeing views from many angles.
Kip Goodman, chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Art, said he likes Keeler’s thoughtful approach to the site and the community. “His design work is interesting enough and layered with meaning and surprise that the art itself can become the destination,” he said.
Keeler said this access into everyday life is a driving force behind his work. “What I like about the idea of public art is the exposure to people who might not be familiar with art and the conversations it generates, usually when they least expect it,” he said.