Public art project hopes to fill Wichita with colorful Keepers

06/21/2014 12:00 AM

06/20/2014 5:31 PM

Chicago may have its Cows on Parade. Lindsborg has its brightly painted Swedish Dala Horses.

Now make way for Wichita with its Keepers on Parade, a public art project hosted by Together Wichita 2014.

The Keepers are 10-foot fiberglass replicas of the Keeper of the Plains statue by Kiowa artist Blackbear Bosin, one of Wichita’s and the state’s most recognized works of art. Located at the confluence of the Arkansas and the Little Arkansas Rivers, the Keeper stands watch over the daily happenings in Wichita.

In much the same way, the Keepers replicas will adorn local businesses and public areas throughout the city.

“We are looking at a project to build community pride and leave a lasting impression,” said Heather Denker, project manager for Together Wichita 2014. “We know of other cities who have done these type of art installations. We think it is a great idea that takes an icon from each city and builds on it.”

Together Wichita 2014 is a community-wide initiative – involving 22 local businesses and organizations – to showcase people, places and their creations that make Wichita special.

2014 marks the 40th anniversary of Bosin dedicating his artwork to the City of Wichita. Denker said special permission from the Bosin family was given for the Together Wichita 2014 art project.

Soon after its dedication, the statue became one of the most beloved pieces of artwork in Kansas and across the Midwest. Its image was used as one of four designs on the U.S. Bicentennial medals in 1976, along with images of the Statue of Liberty, George Washington’s profile and a group of four faces representing U.S. diversity.

It became the logo of Wichita’s Convention and Tourism Bureau in 1980, and Sedgwick County’s logo in 1982. Smaller replicas of the Keeper now stand in Wichita sister cities in France and Mexico.

Artists who would like to participate in decorating the Keepers are asked to submit proposals for the blank replicas by July 25. Artists selected will be paid a $1,000 honorarium on completion and approval of their painted Keeper.

The project is open to all artists, professional or amateur.

People, organizations or businesses that would like to purchase the blank replicas can do so for $6,000, Denker said. The cost includes the statue, the artist’s fee and a special coating to preserve the Keeper.

Although 25 statues have been ordered so far, she hopes more will be ordered as the art project catches on.

“We don’t want to put a limited number on it,” Denker said. “We want this to be an ongoing, living project.

“We want this to grow as people start seeing them around.”

Artists wanting more information about Together Wichita 2014 and the design submission process can go to http://wichitaarts.com, www.togetherwichita2014.com or call Denker at 316-371-7377.

Together Wichita 2014 is expected to announce other projects in the coming weeks.

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