Given some considerations, the Lawrence Metropolis Fee approves the design idea for a $ 340,000 artwork set up for Police Headquarters | Information, sports activities, jobs

Photo of: Contributed rendering

This is a concept artist Joe O’Connell created for the artwork he will be completing for the new Lawrence Police Headquarters.

Though some questioned the message the piece could convey, Lawrence city commissioners voted to approve the concept for a public art installation in the city’s new police headquarters.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the commission voted 4-1 against Commissioner Lisa Larsen to approve the draft concept for the $ 340,000 project that calls for a metal pavilion with colorful glass depictions of eyes and light projections. Although some raised concerns about the sparse public comment and potentially negative interpretations of the eyes, the commissioners, who voted to proceed, agreed that the art is ultimately in the eye of the beholder.

The piece is supposed to reference the nearby Police Headquarters, and artist Joe O’Connell told the commission that the eyes should convey the idea of ​​seeing someone else’s perspective.

“The main theme is empathy, understanding and seeing through people’s eyes,” said O’Connell.

Despite these intentions, Larsen said that to her the eyes felt like surveillance or the idea that the police were watching, and she didn’t think that was a good signal.

“I like the concept of what you’re trying to do; I just can’t get over the feeling of what the eyes represent, at least to me, and what I’ve heard from various community members, ”said Larsen.

Especially given the size of the project, Larsen said she would like the design concept to go back to the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission for more public feedback.

The city held two virtual meetings on the design concept on June 26, but city spokesman Porter Arneill said they weren’t well attended. Arneill said after Journal-World published an article, some people got in touch and he gave them O’Connell’s email address for feedback.

Commissioner Jennifer Ananda said she had also heard comments that the article appeared to communicate police surveillance, and she asked O’Connell if he had made any changes to the concept based on the feedback he had received. He said some of the feedback has been to make sure the eyes are not expressing emotions such as anger and that the eyes are not looking down on people. In response, he said he planned to have the eyes empathetic and the eyes look up.

The Arts Commission approved the concept at a July meeting, at which time board member Denise Stone said she heard from someone who didn’t particularly like the eyes given the ongoing national police and police reform talks. Arneill said Tuesday that on the recommendation of the art commission, the artwork would have a QR code that links to a website that offers more information about the project and its message of empathy.

Vice Mayor Courtney Shipley said she liked that the projection would illuminate an area of ​​pathways near the police station. She also said that she thought the eyes could be interpreted the other way around and her art provided an opportunity to think critically.

“I think art is good when you can look at it from different angles, so you could actually say, ‘Oh, it’s about surveillance,’ but you could also say it’s about how we are accountable to each other, we see all of us, ”said Shipley. “And I think you could even turn it around and say we’re watching the police.”

Commissioner Stuart Boley said he had heard concerns about the content and cost of the project and was also concerned about the level of public engagement.

Mayor Brad Finkeldei said sending it back to the Arts Commission would not generate additional feedback as the public had already had several opportunities to comment. In the end, Finkeldei said he appreciated the fact that the concept had sparked discussions and looked forward to further development.

“I think that works of art are in most cases in the eye of the beholder, and I think that this has the ability to spark conversation and also arouse joy,” said Finkeldei.

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