Leawood will soon have another monumental artwork to add to its collection, even though City Administrator Scott Lambers recommended against its placement along Tomahawk Creek Parkway.
City Council members unanimously approved the placement of a 17-foot-tall stainless steel abstract sculpture by New York artist Albert Paley in the median of the winding thoroughfare, just north of 115th Street. There, according to a city staff report, the piece titled “Variance” will serve as the centerpiece of the city’s Sculpture Garden.
Leawood has installed several other sculptures along the parkway, with “Spooked,” a realistic depiction of three leaping deer just south of College Boulevard, perhaps the best known.
Leawood’s cultural arts coordinator, April Bishop, said the Leawood Arts Council paid $160,000 for the work, which was displayed on New York’s Park Avenue last year as part of a group of Paley’s works. At first, Bishop said, the city considered placing the work beside one of the ponds east of the parkway. However, the cost of raising the base of the piece out of the flood zone there proved too costly. In the middle of the parkway, the piece will appear to rest on the ground.
Bishop said engineers would begin to construct a concrete footing for the piece almost immediately upon council approval, and that the work could be installed in as little as two weeks.
The agenda for the council meeting noted that Lambers recommended against the placement of the artwork in the middle of the parkway lanes, but there was no discussion of that Monday night. Council members appeared to have reached a consensus on that matter at a previous work session on the topic. The only discussion was about who would pay for the installation of a sidewalk on the south side of the artwork to allow people to walk nearby.
On the agenda item for Monday night’s meeting, there was a notation: “Staff comment: It is the position of the City Administrator that placement of this piece of art in the median on Tomahawk Creek Parkway is a mistake.”
“I recommended against the placement, not the artwork itself,” Lambers said before the meeting. “My desire was to have it somewhere other than in the median, further from the road, where it could be softened up. It’s a sharp, contemporary piece of art.”
Bishop said after the meeting that she was excited to get Paley’s work. The Arts Council made an offer for the piece last year, and it has been in storage in Rochester, N.Y., Paley’s hometown, since it was taken down from public display in November.
“He’s internationally famous,” Bishop said of Paley. “He’s considered the godfather of constructed sculpture,” by which it is meant metal work that is welded together, rather than cast in one piece.
The city’s art fund will pay for the sculpture and the adjoining sidewalk.
Another matter that was extensively discussed at Monday night’s meeting was an ordinance to rezone and approve a plan for an addition to the Tomahawk Creek Office Park — Kansas City Orthopedic Institute, located south of College Boulevard and west of Tomahawk Creek Parkway.
The main issue was neighbors’ opposition to the noise generated by the heating and cooling systems on the roof of the existing building. The addition would add one more unit to the existing five.
Engineers for the institute and the neighbors both agreed that, despite measures to mitigate the sound, the existing systems already bring the noise level at the property line to one or two decibels above the 60 mandated in the city code. However, proponents pledged to take additional measures to limit the noise, and the council unanimously approved the plan.