The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 25, 2012

Public art project gets plenty of underwriters, but few artists

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Although there are enough underwriters now to support 20 large pieces of art in a public project that is a first for this area, only three artists have applied to design them.

In a nod to the area’s heritage of coal mining, as many as 24 larger-than-life coal bucket statues, each uniquely designed, are to be placed from Second Street to Sixth Street on Broadway in Pittsburg. The event, called SEK Art Fest, is slated for May to September 2013.

“We initially were hoping that we could get all local artists, but apparently our timing was bad,” said Steve Robb, founder and coordinator of SEK Art Fest. “We understand several others wanted to submit, but ran out of time with school activities and other commitments. So we are giving more time and extending the call to Wichita, Lawrence and Kansas City, as well as Joplin.”

The second call for artists carries an application submission date of Jan. 20.

The idea was to mimic the iconic Cow Parade, one of the largest public art events in the world that has inspired countless variations across the country since starting in 1999 in Chicago. There have been cats in Catskill, N.Y.; high-top sneakers in Springfield, Mass.; mules in Jasper, Ala.; and horses in Newnan, Ga. Closer to home, there have been Jayhawks in Lawrence.

The art will be placed on May 1 and will remain on display through Sept. 1, then auctioned at a public and online auction as part of the annual heritage festival on Labor Day weekend known as Little Balkans Days.

It is planned to coincide with a Smithsonian exhibit, “The Way We Work,” which opens in May in nearby Franklin and is expected to attract 25,000 visitors to the area.

Selected artists will receive a $100 advance for materials and a $500 stipend when they finish their coal buckets. Artists may download the application and guidelines at

Plans for proceeds

ORGANIZERS ARE PLANNING to use funds from SEK Art Fest to enhance the Little Balkans Festival, and to provide funding for a new spring festival and the fall OctoberFest in Pittsburg.