People who view a Picasso or Rembrandt at a museum might just give the art a few thoughtful nods and move onto the next painting.
But when folks spot a big sculpture along a busy road or other public area it seems they all have an opinion to share.
The next piece of public art in the area will begin rising up next month in Council Bluffs when crews begin installing a sculpture called “Gateway” on the Broadway viaduct.
The cost of the 50-ton steel sculpture is estimated at $1 million and is completely funded by the Iowa West Foundation. The installation is scheduled to start Sept. 4 and should be finished by the end of the month.
Ed Carpenter, the Oregon-based artist, said Monday that his “intention has been to create an icon for the community, while making the crossing of the bridge an unforgettable experience.”
The name “Gateway” describes its “role as a centerpiece for Council Bluffs, regardless of whether one is traveling east or west,” he said in a written statement.
He added that he was struck by the beauty of the sunrises and sunsets visible from the high point of the recently rebuilt viaduct, “so the forms and colors of ‘Gateway' suggest that kind of radiant imagery.”
The sculpture will be lit at night with LED lights.
In an interview, Carpenter said the 76-foot-high sculpture is not intended as a literal depiction of anything.
“The important thing is how you feel when you enter the bridge and exit,'' said Carpenter, who works internationally.
More than 100 steel poles that are part of the sculpture already line both sides of the bridge.
At the high point of the bridge, a Y-shaped steel pylon will rise up on either side of the viaduct. Seven long sections of steel will fan out from each pylon, stretching across the bridge.
Carpenter said that structurally the sculpture more than satisfies building codes.
Pete Tulipana, president and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation, said the sculpture is part of the foundation's efforts to beautify the city.
“Public art is an important part of re-energizing the community,'' he said.
Across the metro area and the region, public art has stirred positive and negative reactions over the years.
The four-piece “Odyssey” sculpture on the 24th Street overpass of Interstate 80 in Council Bluffs seemed to bring out the art critic in everyone when the work went up in 2010.
Some Omaha projects have produced similar reactions, such as the J. Doe sculptures in the summer of 2001 and the relocation of the “Sounding Stones” sculpture from Turner Park to Happy Hollow Boulevard and Dodge Street in the fall of 2007.
Back in the 1970s, abstract sculptures that went up across Nebraska to commemorate the nation's bicentennial really got people talking. One, “Erma's Desire,” a collection of large pointed metal pieces near Grand Island, is one example.
Carpenter said that while there might be some people who don't like his sculpture, he doesn't anticipate big opposition.
His goal is to create pieces of art that people would fight to protect 50 years from now, said Carpenter, who specializes in large-scale public installations.
Tulipana said the foundation already has received positive reaction to the poles that are part of the sculpture.
“We feel confident the community is going to enjoy and appreciate this art,'' he said.
People can watch the three-week installation through a time-lapse webcam that has been placed on the bridge, he said. Visit www.iowawestpublicart.org and click on the “Art in Progress” link.
Also, Carpenter will discuss the sculpture with the public from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 11 in the community room of the Harvester Artspace Lofts at South Main and 10th Avenue in Council Bluffs.
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