Extraordinary opportunities

Sculpture Walk Springfield turns even a casual downtown stroll into an engaging adventure. Missouri State students are playing a part. 

When Deidre Argyle, assistant professor in the department of art and design, joined the advisory board of Sculpture Walk Springfield, she had one request. “I wanted to have a student spot, just one spot for a student sculpture each year,” she says.  

The board designated the corner of Boonville and Mill as a site for student work, and the 2017-18 Sculpture Walk included a piece by Missouri State student Suzanne Ahlvers. The next year’s Sculpture Walk featured three student works, and visitors to the 2019-20 exhibition can check out four pieces by student artists.  

This progression happened organically. Argyle says, “The selection committee found the students’ work to be as competitive as the outside work, so they said, ‘Let’s include them.’” In fact, three of this year’s student sculptors received up-front money to build their pieces — part of grant program sponsored by Peg and Bob Carolla.  

Such opportunities, Argyle says, are extraordinarily rare for undergraduate students. Submitting to Sculpture Walk is typically her students’ first chance to create professional proposals and have their ideas reviewed alongside those of more established artists.  

“They’re competing with an international pool,” Argyle says. “This year, there were 74 submissions for 23 spots.”  

Such experiences not only benefit the students; they also extend Missouri State’s ties to Springfield’s vibrant art scene.  

“We continually seek out ways to engage with the community,” says Dr. Shawn Wahl, dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “It’s deeply embedded in our mission and part of our commitment to promoting the arts in Missouri.”  

About Sculpture Walk Springfield

In 2013, a small group of Springfield’s city leaders began discussing the idea of public art, specifically sculpture, as an adornment for Springfield and a potential boon for the economy.

After years of planning, Sculpture Walk Springfield came to fruition. In April 2016, 13 sculptures were installed throughout downtown Springfield. Each April, a new collection is installed. The current collection features 22 works of art.

Q&A with student sculptors

T. Baedke, Emily Cunningham and Caleb Davis exhibited work during the 2018-19 Sculpture Walk. Daniel Johnson, Amanda Steimel and Jaden Rodriguez created sculptures for the current exhibition. They all sat down to answer questions about the experience.

What did having your work selected mean to you?

Amanda Steimel: “This is something I never imagined I would get to do. I’d thought only people in [the department of art and design] knew what I was doing, and I got to show people what I was working on.”

Caleb Davis: “It gave me a lot of confidence because I’d never made anything that big before, and I’d never displayed anything publicly.”

Daniel Johnson: “I’ve always considered sculpture to be an impenetrable, unattainable artform that, like, three people did, and I didn’t know how they did it. Before [Sculpture Walk], I didn’t think this would be realistic for me.”

What inspired your sculpture?

Emily Cunningham: “I was feeling pressure from being a student, dealing with deadlines and not knowing what my life was going to be like. I channeled this [into] a figure, not identifiable as me so that anyone could identify. There are arrows going up and swirling; there are different colors to show different sizes of decisions and different pathways. I wanted to normalize that [life] is a process and it’s okay to not know.”

Jaden Rodriguez: “My sculpture [featuring hands pointing toward the sky] was almost a call to action. The whole point is that we have power in numbers. That doesn’t mean everything we do is for the greater good, but when we [act] toward the greater good, we're bettering our tomorrow. The hands pointing to the heavens say that justice will work for you if you’re willing to work for it.”

Caleb Davis: "I’ve been riding bicycles for over a decade, and when I’m riding, I like observing the celestial bodies in the sky: the sun, moon and stars, and how — as the earth turns — they move across the sky. It might start out as a sunrise but end as a sunset.”

T. Baedke: “My sculpture was made as a celebration for the LGBT community in Springfield. It’s bright, attractive and happy, but it’s also a comment about how the community protects each other. That’s shown in the way the sculpture is wrapped around different pride flags.”

How was it to share this experience with other students?

Amanda Steimel: “Watching them do it makes you think you can do it, too. There were so many times when I didn’t know which way to go, and we’d ask each other.”

Emily Cunningham: “I like the idea of building community with sculpture. I wasn’t expecting that. I have a lot of close friends from the process.”