Inside JCPRD: Residents can help plan for public art in Johnson County parks

Artist Ann-Marie Yang with her artwork, Ephemeral Piece, which was temporarily displayed at Lexington Lake Park in 2019.

By Superintendent of Culture Susan Mong

Johnson County Park and Recreation District (JCPRD) has launched a new Public Art Program. The goal is to embed public art into park spaces, trails, and facilities to enhance and enrich the experience for visitors.  JCPRD is undergoing a public art master plan to establish a road map for this program and seeks citizen involvement to make the plan reflective of the community.

”The COVID-19 pandemic brought patrons to JCPRD parks in record numbers, said Executive Director Jeff Stewart.   “The community has a renewed appreciation for the role parks play in our overall health and well-being.  We have always been about providing spaces for recreation, gathering, and experiencing nature.  It will soon include the chance to encounter art in JCPRD facilities and natural spaces.”

This new program will be funded in part with one-half of 1% of the JCPRD annual Capital Improvement Program, along with private fundraising to help implement the plan over the next ten years.  The public art committee will guide the process, made of up several invested members of the community.  JCPRD is made up of 17 parks across Johnson County totaling over 10,000 acres, 136 miles of paved and unpaved trails, and 17 facilities operated across the county.  With over 10 million visitors and participations annually, JCPRD is committed to providing spaces that reflect the community and inspire everyone to stay active, engaged, and healthy.

“Public art in our parks can reflect our history and heritage, connect us to an outdoor place in a way that is meaningful and personal, and connect us to one another as well.  The role of our parks as shared and safe outdoor spaces is more important than ever during the current pandemic and the presence of public art in our parks will further enhance their value to our residents,” says JCPRD Public Art Committee member Anne Blessing.

JCPRD’s commitment to arts and culture is a relatively new strategic focus.  The Culture Division was established in 2018 with the goal of expanding and enriching opportunities to engage in arts and culture throughout Johnson County.  The Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center serves as the cultural hub of Theatre in the Park, the Johnson County Museum, fine and performing arts, facility rentals, and now public art. As a Gold Medal agency, JCPRD strives to provide the best park, recreation, and cultural services and amenities.  Introducing art will inspire the community to take in more JCPRD parks across the county and rediscover the amazing natural spaces we have in Johnson County.

JCPRD is inviting the community to take a brief survey to share what matters most as it relates to art, positive experiences with public art in other places, and feedback about location and placement.   The success of this program depends on strong community engagement.  It only takes about seven minutes to complete this survey.

JCPRD Public Art Committee Member Shelly Trewolla shared why this new effort matters so deeply to her.    “So much of art is confined to galleries, museums, and homes where it is seen by a limited audience.  Placing art in public spaces not only enhances its location but also enriches the experience of the people visiting that location.”

JCPRD looks forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts about what would enrich your experience across our park and recreation system.

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