Coal buckets to decorate downtown

Gretchen Burns | managing editor

Many have seen the fiberglass sculptures of teddy bears, cows, mustang horses and other things that have been painted and decorated on the streets of cities across the nation.
Pittsburg will be joining those cities Wednesday, May 1, as decorated fiberglass coal buckets are displayed along the streets.
The 24 fiberglass coal buckets are part of a four-month collaborative project named “SEK Art Fest 2013: Mining Memories,” under the umbrella of the Little Balkans Festival Association.
This project, the association says, is geared to promote the arts and cultural festivals in Southeast Kansas, increase regional prosperity, enhance quality of life, strengthen community pride and activate economic development.
Vonnie Corsini says coal buckets were chosen to represent Pittsburg and to be consistent with the Smithsonian exhibit coming to the Miners Hall Museum in Franklin this May.
“The title of the exhibition is ‘The Way We Worked,’ so we felt the coal bucket would be an appropriate image,” said Corsini, executive director of the Colonial Fox Theatre and board member of the SEK Art Fest. “The Shriners Bowl is coming to Pittsburg in 2014 and that event might lend itself to a giant Shriners fez, or a football helmet. You get the idea.”
Artists interested in designing a coal bucket, with the theme ‘What makes Southeast Kansas great,’ submitted proposals consisting of a sketch of their designs for the coal bucket, materials they plan to use, a short paragraph describing their artistic background, and a portfolio with four previous projects completed.
“We need some way to determine that an artist is capable of completing a project of this magnitude,” she said. “Like other aspects in life, experience is a reliable indicator. A degree in art is not necessary. Experience creating art pieces is a must.”
Although artists have not yet been identified, the 24 artists whose designs were picked are currently working on the coal buckets. The artists will be provided a stipend of $500 upon the completion of the coal buckets on top of $100 for the supplies used.
“This event is budgeted and the artists’ stipend is included in the budget. The important point here is that the artists will be paid,” Corsini said. “We felt it was very important to move away from the notion that artists can do work just for the recognition. The artists’ time is valuable and their work is worthy of the monetary support. Let’s eradicate the condition of ‘starving artists.’”
The coal buckets will be taken from central downtown Pittsburg on Sunday, Sept. 1, and presented at a gala, where the buckets will be auctioned off to raise money for future festivals throughout the year.
Corsini says she believes that the event as a whole will be exciting for the downtown district and community in general.
“Southeast Kansas has a vibrant arts community and this is another way to celebrate them,” Corsini said. “Other communities who have done this enjoyed large increases in downtown foot traffic. A great community deserves a great downtown.”

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