Joco 913

Transformation of former King Louie building includes functional public art

The King Louie complex, reimagined at the Arts and Heritage Center.
The King Louie complex, reimagined at the Arts and Heritage Center. Submitted photo

It definitely won’t be as soft and comfy as your sofa, but Larry Meeker believes the public art chosen for the county Arts and Heritage Center in the former King Louie bowling lanes will feel a bit like a living room just the same.

The five-piece sculpture that will be located just to the side of the building’s spire looks a bit like a 1950s family room, complete with chaise lounge and kidney-bean shaped forms that were a hallmark of the Googie architecture of times gone by.

“The transformed King Louie building will once again be a gathering place. In fact it will be a place that I would argue would become Johnson County’s living room,” said Meeker, chairman of the county’s public art commission.

County commissioners, convened as the Public Building Commission, voted 5-2 at their recent meeting to give the art contract to Brad Goldberg of Dallas.

Goldberg was the top-rated of 22 artists who submitted proposals. The contract is for a maximum of $199,400. The money comes from a county program that commits one percent of new county building costs to public art.

Visitors will be able to sit on the sculpture, but maybe not settle in. The pieces will be made of grayish Minnesota granite. Goldberg said he envisioned the piece as a place for people to gather or wait for their rides near the entrance of the building.

Inspiration came from the futuristic, space-age look of the architecture of the time and from the former bowling alley and ice skating rink itself, Goldberg said.

The distinctive accordion-roofed building and sharply pointed entrance spire makes such a statement of its own that designing an installation was difficult, he said.

“When I saw the spire I was a little troubled,” he said. “How does one do something next to this spire? It is large, it is dominant, it is iconic.”

Ultimately Goldberg decided to keep his piece horizontal so as not to compete with the spire, he said.

Commissioners John Toplikar and Michael Ashcraft voted against the funding but not because they didn’t like the art. Both said they have reservations about using county funds for art when there are other more pressing needs.

Action on the art was one of a few measures the commission took Dec. 1 as it prepares for the spring 2017 opening of the center at 8788 Metcalf Ave.

Commissioners also approved a sublease arrangement that will allow the Overland Park Historical Society to have exhibit space at the center and moved some funds around to replace part of the roof and add catwalk netting to the theater.

The stiff wire mesh, called a tension grid, goes just below the ceiling of the center’s “black box theater” and will be used to access the lights and other technical equipment for the show. The grid provides a safer surface for stage crew members than traditional catwalks and will allow more access to groups who want to be involved in shows.

One such group is the Project Search, a vocational program serving the developmentally disabled. That group has sought to be involved in future shows at the center.

The county also earmarked $230,000 to replace a section of the roof that was not done with other roof repairs two years ago. The money was already in other county funds and does not require new spending.