Lenexa approves design for colorful public art installation at Civic Center

The installation would sit in the Lenexa Commons pedestrian mall. All renderings courtesy Joe O’Connell.

The Lenexa City Council has unanimously approved the final design and fabrication documents for the artwork “Body Politic,” to be installed at the west end of the Lenexa Commons on the City Center Campus.

Joe O’Connell of Creative Machines Inc., based in Tucson, Ariz., is the artist. The city will pay O’Connell a fixed fee of $180,000 for the artwork. The project’s installation is scheduled for completion in about four months, Parks and Recreation Director Gary Ristow said.

The city’s budget for public art on the Civic Campus is $400,000, funded by a $150,000 line item in the Civic Center project budget and $250,000 from the city’s Parks and Recreation Impact Fee Zone 2 art funds and the Capital Improvement Fund for arts, according to a memo Tuesday from Ristow to the council.

At its Jan. 16 meeting, the council authorized Mayor Michael Boehm to execute an agreement with O’Connell for the city’s purchase of the artwork. City staff recommended approval of the final design and fabrication documents.

In a written statement, O’Connell describes the artwork as two spherical, stainless steel sculptures, one 7 feet in diameter and the other 5 feet in diameter, “set slightly into the landscape.”

“Because there are two, a relationship is implied,” O’Connell wrote. “The large and small spheres together evoke a parent and child — or an older and a younger sibling. The balance of the sculptures completes the view from the City Center.”

The spheres are covered with silhouettes of people, each one “drawn to convey an emotion or attitude toward life,” and lit from within by multicolored LED lights.

“Public spaces are all about looking at the silhouettes of others and judging their feelings, receptivity to contact, their past, their station in life and what they are currently thinking, and these sculptures reflect that analysis,” O’Connell wrote. “The sphere’s shape invites people to circle around the artwork to ‘read’ the personality and attitude of each silhouette. People will become more aware of the relationship of the spheres to each other.”

Subcontractors to the city will do all electrical and structural infrastructure work related to the sculptures. Employees of Creative Machines will be present for the installation and assist as necessary.

Routine maintenance of the sculptures will require periodic washing with mild soap and water using a soft cloth or a soft brush to avoid scratching the finish. Water spots, which are common on stainless steel, can be removed with rubbing alcohol, glass cleaner or white vinegar and a non-scouring pad.

No routine maintenance of the lighting system is required. If any of the system’s components fail, then a qualified electrician can replace them. The lighting system is expected to be removed and updated in 10 years.