The contentious issue of public art around the courthouse square could be on the path to resolution if a proposed partnership between the city of Maryville and Sioux Falls, S.D. becomes reality.
According to Bob Bush and Diane Sudhoff of the Maryville Public Art Committee, officials with the South Dakota city's SculptureWalk program have expressed interest in partnering with Maryville in order to provide sculptures on a lease basis that would be placed on three cement pods designed for that purpose on the north, east and west sides of the square.
The pods were installed as part of a $3 million streetscape project completed two years ago, and for a while were occupied by abstract metal sculptures created by an art student at Northwest Missouri State University.
According to various city officials, the rust-covered forms proved unpopular, especially with downtown business owners who complained about the loss of parking spaces.
However, MPAC, the Greater Maryville Chamber of Commerce and others have continued to voice support for public art here, saying that in other communities such installations have helped drive tourism and retail development.
Sudhoff told the Maryville City Council this week that Sioux Falls, a college town with a population of more than 200,000, is one such city.
Supported by numerous sponsorships from corporations and individuals, Sudhoff said the SculptureWalk program displays more than 50 works of art valued at three-quarters of a million dollars in the city's central business district, at Avera McKennan Hospital and on the University of Sioux Falls campus.
Selected artists contribute works for display at no charge as a form of marketing, and all of the sculptures are for sale.
Should Maryville decide to partner with Sioux Falls, Sudhoff said, Maryville would receive three or four sculptures a year at a cost $2,000 each. Should any of the works sell, the city would pocket a percentage of the purchase price.
Sudhoff pointed out that artists picked for the Sioux Falls program have national and regional reputations are are invited to submit work following a highly competitive selection process.
"This is an incredible pool of talent that could be available to us," she said.
Council members appeared receptive to the idea but took no immediate action, instead directing City Manager Greg McDanel to examine the proposal in detail.
Councilman Glenn Jonagan called the proposed partnership the "best alternative I've seen," and said the deal might provide "motivation to do something on the square that needs to be done very, very badly."
Jonagan added that acquiring sculptures through an established program could ease doubts about aesthetic quality and selection, which he said had prompted the "biggest objections" to public art locally.
McDanel said that newly adopted municipal budget for fiscal 2014 contains $10,000 earmarked for the acquisition of artworks for display either on the square or elsewhere inside the city limits.