Going public - Wall in Scott City displays local art

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Picasso said art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life. The depressed, historic area of Scott City known as old Illmo suddenly has a new sparkle due to artist Paul Schock and some of his students.

Five sculptures on 4-by-14-foot panels went up this week on the north exterior wall of a florist shop at 523 Second St. Stress is the common theme of the sculptures, which were created for an advanced sculpture class, but everybody seems to have their own ideas about what's going on in them. One was inspired by the '60s children's game called Operation. In another, a metal piggy bank hangs from cables that also suspend a set of keys.

The sculptures are one of the first visible parts of a plan by Schock, an art professor at Southeast Missouri State University, to transform this street in old Illmo into an arts district. He already has established a community art center in the former Second Street furniture store where he lives.

Barb Lynch, co-owner of the Floral Connection, liked the idea immediately when Schock brought her his proposal. "Most people don't understand it, but they stop and look," she said.

Nearby hardware store owner Don Roth provided many of the materials for the sculptures, which will remain in place for at least five years. Lynch hopes more sculptures eventually will be made to fill the entire wall and her southern wall as well.

The Operation game presented the body of a male patient who had some hilarious ailments. The players were "doctors" whose goal was to remove the pieces representing the ailments without setting off a buzzer. Artist Eleanor Wilson made the body of her sculpture female and put in some of her own graduating senior afflictions: Heartburn, asthma, lack of time, caffeine overdoses, charley horses and PMS.

The other sculptures are "Crazy Eyes" by James Thurman, "Teddy Bear and Rain" by Rebecca Thompson and "Red Stress Door" by Schock.

When the students were erecting the sculptures, many people stopped to ask what they were doing.

"When you do public art it's supposed to get a reaction," Wilson said.

Lynch began to wonder whether they'd encountered a critic when one girl who stopped asked lots of questions. It turned out she wanted to take some art classes.

Retirees Vyron and Lillian Harmon, who owned the furniture store that became the Schock Community Art Center, walked by the florist shop Tuesday afternoon and stopped to look closer.

This is art that puzzled Vyron. "This is art as people see in their minds," Lillian offered.

City administrator Ron Eskew has heard little reaction from townspeople. Asked his opinion of the art, he shrugged, smiled and said, "I'm probably not modern enough to appreciate it."

Schock and his students are just getting started. Coming in September to a building across the street: A mural titled "Cows on Stilts."

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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