By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
An initial call for artists to paint their own coal bucket statues came up nearly empty.
Now a second scoop for the inaugural SEK Art Fest competition has produced more than twice as many artists as the organization may have openings.
“We have 58 submissions, and it is a very good representation of the Four States,” organizer Steve Robb said Monday. “We were totally thrilled to get that many, especially on our first year.”
This week, a panel of three jurors is expected to begin reviewing each proposal blindly — the artists’ names will be blacked out — and eventually narrow the field to 26.
Those 26 artists will be announced on Feb. 8, and each will have until late April to paint a fiberglass coal bucket statue. Each statue will stand about 4 feet tall. From May through Labor Day, the statues will line Broadway, from Second Street to Sixth Street.
The idea was to mimic the iconic Chicago CowParade, one of the largest public art events in the country. It has inspired countless variations, including cats in Catskill, N.Y.; high-top sneakers in Springfield, Mass.; mules in Jasper, Ala.; and, closer to home, Jayhawks in Lawrence.
The display is planned to coincide with a Smithsonian Institution exhibit, “The Way We Worked,” which opens in May in nearby Franklin and is projected to attract 25,000 visitors to the area. The statues then will be auctioned off as part of the annual heritage festival on Labor Day weekend known as Little Balkans Days.
The proposals will be judged based on the artists’ qualifications and their submissions of previous work.
“For the first year doing this, we wondered if we would even get any,” said Sarah Jensen, a committee member. “I guess ending up with so many is a good problem to have.”
SEK ART FEST organizers are considering engaging Pittsburg youths by producing miniature coal buckets that children may paint and display publicly.