Arts News: Glass Art Installations Give Life to Public Spaces

This past summer Kimball installed the 18-foot “Prairie Paintbrush,” co-designed with Leopold Gallery owner Paul Dorrell and featuring 209 cylindrical glass spikes atop a metal base, at Olathe Public Library. (Leopold Gallery

The hues produced from light shining through glass are unlike any other, creating unique shades depending on the season or weather. As a child, Tyler Kimball was struck by the wondrous material, wracking his brain to figure out how glass is made. This question took him on a journey through both stained glass and blown glass art and led him in 2015 to form Monarch Glass Studio in the historic 18th and Vine neighborhood. Globally, Monarch is the largest producer of round glass discs, called rondels, that are shipped around the world to stained glass artists. Kimball was also instrumental in setting up the glass studios at Englewood Arts and Belger Glass Annex. Monarch currently has a team of seven, including Kimball’s wife, Alison Siegel, a glass artist and educator, that plays a crucial role in Kimball’s vision.

Kimball’s largest public art installation is at Lawrence Transit Facility. The installation, called “Making Connections,” speaks to the transportation aspect of finding routes as well as the social feature of commuting. “On public transit, you make connections with the community instead of as a solo commuter,” says Kimball. “Making Connections” has recurring themes and colors. Lines and pipes, suggesting a bus or subway route, weave throughout the pieces and meet at round orbs, like that of a destination. The colors blue, crimson, purple and gold repeat throughout “Making Connections” as an ode to Lawrence universities KU and Haskell.

“Making Connections,” Kansas City artist Tyler Kimball’s new installation at the Lawrence Transit Facility, incorporates multiple glass elements, including stained glass windows inspired by transit maps and three 10-foot by 18” inch glowing towers. (from the artist)

In total, there are three main pieces to “Making Connections” — a chandelier, stained-glass windows and colored towers. Each component has its own relationship to light and glass. Commuters at Lawrence Transit Facility will be greeted by a vivid, modern chandelier. White neon lights will shine through colored glass pipes that feed into circular saucers.

Those both inside and outside of the facility will see the 220 square feet of stained-glass windows that imitate a bus or subway map, with colored curving lines weaving in and out toward intricately designed, circular rondels that serve as destinations. Three 10-foot by 18 inches glowing towers serve as guideposts, pointing commuters to different points of the transit facility.

“Making Connections” was not Kimball’s first foray into public art, nor will it be his last. This summer, Kimball installed the 18-foot “Prairie Paintbrush,” with 209 cylindrical glass spikes atop a metal base, at Olathe Public Library. Paul Dorrell of Leopold Gallery co-designed the piece with Kimball. According to Dorrell, “The sculpture is partly a tribute to the recently deceased Mayor Mike Copeland of Olathe, whose radiance and kindness were limitless.” Dorrell and Leopold Gallery also facilitated interior art and an exterior mural at the library from artists Richard Raney, Isaac Tapia and Rico Alvarez.

Glass is a true passion for Kimball, as is the effect public art can have on a community or space. Kimball explains his pull toward the craft, saying, “I really like what it can do for a space and an environment. If there’s a nice piece of glass or any kind of art, it can really enhance the area forever.”

See Kimball’s work at Lawrence Transit Facility and Olathe Public Library. To find out more, visit www.monarchglassstudio.com.

Emily Spradling

Emily Spradling is an adult English-language instructor, freelance writer and founding member of the arts/advocacy organization, No Divide KC. She is particularly interested in the intersections of art, culture and LGBTQ+ issues.

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