A Brief History of Sculpture Walk Springfield

In 2013, Karen Schneider and Peg Carolla went to visit their respective daughters in two very different cities – Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Mexico City, Mexico – and returned with similar visions about what public art can do for a community, any community… including Springfield, Missouri. In Mexico, Peg witnessed how a long walk on a crowded boulevard was made pleasurable by the intermittent presence of giant cups, vividly painted by individual artists. In Sioux Falls, a city comparable in size to Springfield, Karen saw how a program of changing public sculpture had enriched and enlivened a town center.

Emboldened by the art in these cities, Karen and Peg gathered together a small group of people – city leaders – who they believed would have a similar vision, and discovered a good amount of enthusiasm and support for the idea of public art, specifically sculpture, as an adornment for Springfield and a potential boon for the economy.

Out of this group, Karen was charged with the responsibility of finding out just how the Sioux Falls program worked, which she did quite promptly and efficiently. The architect of the Sioux Falls program visited Springfield and proposed the creation of a satellite program for Sioux Falls, which had the advantage of a quick start, but in the end did not appeal. “Please! We’d rather do it ourselves!” said Karen and Peg.

Progress hit a block, then, but the dream did not die. In July 2014, Bob Carolla pushed Karen and Peg to get the ball rolling again. Mark McQueary joined the group and the group went about doing the work necessary to build Sculpture Walk Springfield from the ground up. Hiring Nicole Brown as Executive Director was the next step, in recognition that a younger demographic was needed and the rest of the group was all too scattered to carry this ball where it needed to go.

When Nicole came on board, significant progress was made in putting the pieces together that made this dream a reality: a funding mechanism through the Community Foundation making all donations tax-deductible; guidance, a home, and wise direction from Springfield Regional Arts Council; a website; and an Advisory Committee composed of university faculty from Missouri State University and Drury, City of Springfield Public Works employees, City of Springfield Planning and Zoning employees, and a prominent local artist.

After years of planning, Sculpture Walk Springfield officially came to fruition. In April 2016, 13 sculptures were installed throughout downtown Springfield. What happens next depends on the generosity and vision of a larger group of Springfield’s movers and shakers.