BENTONVILLE — The city’s public art scene added another permanent piece Thursday when officials unveiled Found in Train Station Park.
Found is a 9 foot tall sculpture made up of different types of letters forming “Bentonville” in a stacked jumble. Many letters have a polished steel surface that reflects the viewer.
Train Station Park on South Main Street also features a gazebo, benches, and landscaping and is accessible via the Downtown Trail. It is adjacent to the historic train depot where the new Bentonville History Museum will be located.
“Found stalls as beacons of pride, reflecting the faces of people walking by; capturing a moment of their time to reflect on who they are and where they came from,” said Timothy Jorgensen, the artist who created the sculpture.
Jorgensen, from Cedar Falls, Iowa, is a full-time art instructor at the University of Northern Iowa. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from that university and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin. His work can be found at several locations in the Midwest, including the Ames Municipal Airport in Ames, Iowa. According to a press release from the city, Jorgensen’s work has been featured in 15 exhibitions over the past seven years.
The Public Art Advisory Committee last fall invited proposals for artworks inspired by large-scale installations from around the world. The committee selected Jorgensen’s proposal from 23 proposals received. The city paid $35,000 for Found from the Public Art Advisory Committee budget, said Shelli Kerr, director of city planning.
The city budgets $25,000 annually for public art. Some of the 2021 funding has been set aside to use the 2022 budget to purchase the piece, Kerr said.
Funding for projects initiated by the advisory committee comes from the city’s general fund and the Bentonville Advertising and Promotion Commission (Visit Bentonville). The committee also approves other artworks proposed for public ownership that are funded by private entities. The city had several projects featured and funded by OZ Art NWA, Kerr said.
OZ Art NWA “highlights the regional arts scene by amplifying the work of local arts organizations and exhibiting a growing collection in surprising public spaces throughout Bentonville and beyond,” according to its website.
“OZ Art NWA believes that providing and encouraging access to unique, diverse and authentic art encounters makes the community more vibrant,” said Elizabeth W. Miller, OZ Art NWA Art Collections Manager. “This belief drives our mission to both invest in and promote public art of all kinds in Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas. We are fortunate here to have so many – from the cities to our incredible museums – sharing this vision.”
The city has paid $117,360 for temporary and permanent exhibitions on city property since it began installing artworks in 2014. Visit Bentonville capitalized on this with an additional $99,329, Kerr said.
Located opposite the public library.
“I love that a permanent public work of art will be installed in Train Station Park, so close to our library,” said Library Director Hadi Dudley. “It’s a great place for a community-oriented sculpture. I’m sure Found will catch the attention of parkgoers, library users and passers-by.”
A community effort
Advisory Committee member Grant Cottrell has served on the committee since January 2021 and has lived in Bentonville for eight of the 17 years he has been in Northwest Arkansas.
Any proposal or concept will be carefully considered, how it will interact with its environment and how people will interact with the work itself.
“Working with department and board members in the City of Bentonville, we felt Train Station Park was an ideal location for the transportation, visibility, space, city history and interactivity that Found deserves,” he said.
Found is the 17th permanent or temporary work introduced by the advisory committee in conjunction with Visit Bentonville, adding to the more than 130 public works of art found across the city, according to the press release.
Over the years, art has been woven into the fabric of the city and the wider area, which is exciting to see, Cottrell said.
“The investment and acceptance that art brings makes us very fortunate to live in a place that sees art as an important part of our identity,” he said.
The city-sponsored efforts are complemented by the work of other organizations — such as OZ Art NWA, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and The Momentary — which are helping to make Bentonville a premier cultural destination, the press release said.
“The beauty of public art is that it can show up on our daily commute, when we go out at the weekend, or on a stroll through downtown,” said Alejo Benedetti, associate curator at Crystal Bridges. “It’s art meant to exist in our everyday lives and I’ve always found that very powerful.”
The city established a public arts policy and advisory board in 2007 to promote art in “successful and engaging public spaces with distinctive character, where citizens encounter works of public art that will surprise and delight, with artworks that tell the story.” of the city and its entrepreneurial spirit and growing diversity,” says the press release.
The first public art on city property were three pieces as part of the Advisory Committee’s first call for proposals along the North Bentonville Trail: Sunkissed by Nathan Pierce, PAC Man by Craig Gray, and Ozark Topography by Ed Pennebaker. After a year of exhibiting, and supported by positive feedback, the Advisory Committee and Visit purchased Bentonville Sunkissed and PAC Man as permanent installations, Kerr said.
effect of public art
Public art has the power to energize public spaces and transform the places where we live, work and play, Kerr said. Public art also helps green spaces thrive and enhances roadsides, pedestrian corridors and community gates, and is an essential part of a community that strives to be distinctive, Kerr said.
Public art can take a variety of shapes, sizes and scales and can be temporary or permanent. It often interprets the history of the place, its people and perhaps addresses a social or environmental issue. Public arts can include murals, sculptures, monuments, integrated architectural or landscape works, community arts, digital new media, and even performances and festivals, according to Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC
Public art — from murals to artworks like Found — is scattered throughout Northwest Arkansas. Like Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale have some sort of council, arts commission, or arts initiative.
The city and advisory committee approved the Bentonville Art Strategic Plan for 2022-2024, which is “to be used as a roadmap to help city leadership and citizens understand the long-term value and direction of public art in Bentonville.”
The core principles of the plan include: promoting diversity, equity and inclusion; improving the visual environment of the community; Promoting awareness of the city’s social, cultural and historical composition; and increased excitement, access, and engagement with public art.
Committee members will be present on the first Friday downtown September 2 to collect public contributions on public art in Bentonville, Kerr said.
Cottrell sees a development of public art in the city in the coming years.
“As the number of public works of art increases through our program and others, we would like to see these important aspects reflected in art for all to reflect, inspire and enjoy,” he said. “I look forward to seeing public art continue to thrive and bring everyone in Bentonville together for an experience that will always be available.”