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 consisting of different styles of letters that form “Bentonville” in a stacked jumble. Many letters have a polished steel face that reflect the viewer.
Train Station Park on South Main Street also features a gazebo, benches and landscaping and is accessible from the Downtown Trail. It is next to the historic train depot where the new Bentonville History Museum will be located.
“Found stands as a beacon of pride, reflecting the faces of people as they pass by; capturing a moment of their time to reflect on who they are and where they come from,” said Timothy Jorgensen, the artist who created the sculpture.
Jorgensen, who is 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 is found in several locales throughout the Midwest including the Ames Municipal Airport in Ames, Iowa. Jorgensen’s work has been on view in 15 exhibitions over the past seven years, according to a news release from the city.
The Public Art Advisory Committee last fall requested proposals for artwork inspired by large-letter installations from around the world. The committee selected Jorgensen’s proposal out of 23 received. The city paid $35,000 for Found out of the Public Art Advisory Committee’s budget, said Shelli Kerr, city comprehensive planning manager.
The city annually budgets $25,000 for public art. A portion of 2021 funds were reserved to leverage the 2022 budget to purchase the piece, Kerr said.
Funding for projects initiated by the advisory committee come from the city’s general fund and the Bentonville Advertising and Promotion Commission (Visit Bentonville). The committee also approves other artwork proposed for public property that is funded by private entities. The city has had several projects presented and funded by OZ Art NWA, Kerr said.
OZ Art NWA “elevates the regional arts scene by amplifying the work of local arts organizations and sharing a growing collection on view in surprising public places throughout Bentonville and beyond,” according to its website.
“OZ Art NWA believes that providing and promoting access to unique, diverse, authentic art encounters makes the community more vibrant,” said Elizabeth W. Miller, OZ Art NWA art collection manager. “This belief drives our mission to both invest in and champion public art of all kinds across Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas. We are fortunate here that so many — from the cities to our incredible museums — share this vision.”
The city has paid $117,360 for temporary and permanent displays on city property since the installation of artwork started in 2014. Visit Bentonville has leveraged that with an additional $99,329, Kerr said.
Found is across the street from the public library.
“I love that a permanent work of public art will be installed at Train Station Park, so close to our library,” said Hadi Dudley, library director. “It’s a great location for a community-focused sculpture. I’m certain Found will draw positive attention from park visitors, library users and passers-by.”
A collaborative effort
Grant Cottrell, advisory committee member, has been on the committee since January 2021 and has lived in Bentonville eight of the 17 years he has been in Northwest Arkansas.
Careful consideration is given to any proposals or concepts as to how they interact with their environment and how people interact with the work itself.
“Working in collaboration with members of departments and boards within the city of Bentonville, we felt that Train Station Park was an ideal location for traffic, visibility, space, city history and interactivity that Found deserves,” he said.
Found is the 17th permanent or temporary work introduced through the advisory committee in partnership with Visit Bentonville, contributing to the more than 130 public artworks found throughout the city, according to the release.
Through the years, art has been woven into the fabric of the city and area as a whole, which is exciting to see, Cottrell said.
“The investment and embrace given to the arts makes us very fortunate to live in a place that embraces art as an important part of our identity,” he said.
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 — that contribute to making Bentonville a premier cultural destination, according to the release.
“The beauty of public art is that it can show up on our daily commute, when we go out on the weekends or as we are taking a stroll downtown,” said Alejo Benedetti, associate curator at Crystal Bridges. “It’s art that is meant to exist in our everyday lives, and I’ve always found that to be really powerful.”
The city established a public art policy and advisory council in 2007 to facilitate art in “successful and engaging public spaces of distinctive character, where citizens will encounter works of public art that will surprise and delight with artwork that celebrates the city’s history, its entrepreneurial spirit and growing diversity,” according to the release.
The first public art on city property was three pieces as part of the advisory committee’s first request 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 on display and backed by positive feedback, the advisory committee and Visit Bentonville purchased Sunkissed and PAC Man as permanent installations, Kerr said.
Impact 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 gateways, and it is an essential component of a community that strives to be distinctive, Kerr said.
Public art can take a wide range of forms, 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 art can include murals, sculpture, memorials, integrated architectural or landscape architectural work, community art, digital new media and even performances and festivals, according to Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.
Public art — from murals to art like Found — are scattered across Northwest Arkansas. Like Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale have some sort of council, art commission or art initiative.
The city and the advisory committee adopted the Bentonville Art Strategic Plan for 2022-2024 to “be used as a road map to help city leadership and citizens understand the long-term value and direction of public art in Bentonville.”
Core principles of the plan include: fostering diversity, equity and inclusion; enhancing the community’s visual environment; promoting awareness of the city’s social, cultural, and historical composition; and increasing excitement, access and engagement with public art.
Committee members will be at the First Friday downtown Sept. 2 to gather public input on public art in Bentonville, Kerr said.
Cottrell sees public art evolving in the city in the coming years.
“As the number of public artworks expands through our program and others, we would like to see these important aspects reflected in art for all to ponder, inspire and enjoy,” he said. “I look forward to watching public art continue to thrive and bring any and all people together in Bentonville for an experience that will always be available to appreciate.”