Council approves WaterWalk sculpture in 4-3 vote

Here's the scupture. What do you think? Hit the comment section below.Mayor Carl Brewer today said art is in the eye of the beholder. And so was the worthiness of the $350,000 sculpture at WaterWalk the city council approved in a 4-3 vote.

Several members of Wichita’s art community applauded the sculpture — a 38-foot abstract piece made from Cor-Ten steel and bronze that will act as an entrance to the public-private project just north of Kellogg on the Arkansas River. But three council members said the sculpture isn’t the right thing, right now.

Council member Michael O’Donnell opposed the Albert Paley sculpture because he felt the city should send a message to taxpayers that they won’t spend money — even if it can’t be spent elsewhere — at a time when the city is struggle to keep basic services intact. Council member Jeff Longwell opposed the sculpture because he felt the project should involve water — as was originally envisioned when WaterWalk received its initial support years ago. And council member Pete Meitzner said he simply didn’t like how the project surprised him on the agenda late last week, forcing him to make a quick decision on an expensive sculpture that he said he doesn’t know much about.

Council member Janet Miller supported the project. She noted that the sculpture has been discussed publicly at council meetings and committee meetings for months, and she said the city will soon talk about the Waltzing Water fountains and public gathering place next to the river.

"There are lots bigger items in this agenda that we're voting on today that have not had 18 months of public discussion,” she said.

The sculpture is being paid for with tax increment finance money, which has a wide range of uses but must be used inside the district. The district runs along the river and includes WaterWalk, giving the city a lot of potential options. But more than a year ago the council agreed to spend the money to hire a nationally-acclaimed sculptor to create something at the corner of Waterman and Main. The corner will also have plants and other landscaping.