Jazz-inspired sculpture at busy Overland Park intersection may be moved to avoid further damage

The "Shim Sham Shimmy" by sculptor David Stromeyer has stood at the intersection of 119th Street and Blue Valley Parkway since 2007, but city officials have proposed moving it to a less traveled area because of corrosion and damage caused by road salts put down in wintertime. Photo credit Leah Wankum.

Constant exposure to road chemicals at the busy junction of 119th Street and Blue Valley Parkway has become such a threat to a blue steel sculpture there that Overland Park officials are deciding whether to move it.

The piece known as “Shim Sham Shimmy” by sculptor David Stromeyer, has been degrading steadily since it was installed in 2007. The problem has become concerning enough that city officials proposed its possible move and replacement be included in the upcoming capital improvements budget.

No new location was cited, but city documents say if it is moved, “Shim Sham Shimmy” would be relocated to somewhere without the chemical dangers that threaten it at its current triangular spot on the well-traveled intersection.

If approved, the move wouldn’t take place until at least 2025, according to city documents.

Roald salts damaging sculpture

The problem is road salts, said Julie Bilyea, the city’s recreation supervisor in charge of arts and events.

The cold-weather road treatment is corrosive on the sculpture just as it is on automobiles, she said. City crews have done repairs on its peeling paint several times, despite its heavy powder-paint finish intended to protect the metal.

“Unlike a car we can’t drive this to the car wash,” she said.

The location with heavy traffic on three sides adds to the problems, she said. With continued corrosion, Bilyea said officials are coming to the realization that “we have to do something here.”

The question will be whether to commit to bigger repairs every ten years or to move and restore the sculpture and replace it with something less vulnerable to the chemicals, she said.

Potential costs

The piece, which is 18 feet tall and 26 feet in diameter, has sometimes been referred to as the “blue potato chips,” since its main feature is thin roughly oval shapes connected to each other.

But its true name — “Shim Sham Shimmy” — references the Kansas City area’s importance in the jazz scene of the early 20th Century.

The Shim Sham Shimmy was a tap dance or line dance often performed as a finale in jazz halls in the 1920s and 1930s. The blue shapes represent the taps and soles of the dancers’ shoes, Bilyea said.

Officials put the cost or moving the artwork at about $300,000 with half of that total coming from the city and half from private donations.

That is an estimate and does not specify if a replacement sculpture would be included. The Arts and Recreation Foundation of Overland Park is often called upon to raise money for such projects, but no agreement has yet been finalized.

The capital improvements budget is a forecast of likely spending on improvements the city needs to make to its properties and infrastructure in the next five years.

The potential removal and replacement of “Shim Sham Shimmy” is proposed for the 2023-2027 budget cycle, which has not yet been approved by the city council.

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist who reports frequently for the Post and other Kansas City area publications. You can reach her at roxieham@gmail.com.