Urbana considers new artist for King work

Urbana considers new artist for King work

URBANA — City officials will look to a new artist to come up with a design for public art in King Park after they rejected the initial concept developed by a Massachusetts artist.

Urbana will leave behind the $5,000 design fee it paid to Cambridge, Mass.-based Douglas Kornfeld after officials decided his original proposal "did not reflect the active spirit of Dr. King," according to city documents.

City council members tonight could finalize a new, more expensive contract with Peoria-based artist Preston Jackson to come up with a design for a $75,000 art piece to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in King Park. The council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.

After a board rejected Kornfeld's original "Dreamers" concept, he agreed to rework the proposal, according to city documents. Later, he told city officials he would like to resubmit his original design or withdraw from the project, and a public art board decided to go forward without him.

The selection committee "came to the unanimous conclusion that this concept just did not fit what they saw being as important for this project," said public arts coordinator Christina McClelland. "They really felt that this project is about celebrating the active spirit of what Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished and inspired in others."

The city had already paid $5,000 to Kornfeld for the design and will leave that with him as it now looks to Jackson to develop a new design.

City officials are also letting Jackson work with $75,000, up from the original cost of $45,000. They say the extra $30,000 will allow for "a significantly enhanced project."

The money for the project will come out of a "tax increment financing" fund, which holds property tax money that must be used on infrastructure upgrades, business incentives or other improvements in that immediate area.

The art piece is expected to visible from Lincoln Avenue, and officials hope teachers at King School across the park will be able to incorporate the piece into educational programming.

McClelland said the city has run into some "unique constraints" with the project as the city is not allowed to use the likeness or direct quotes from King himself without paying significant fees that the King Center requires.

"What we'll end up with will not be the literal likeness of Dr. King," she said. "But what we're hoping for is a piece of art that will really capture the spirit of what Dr. King stands for."

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