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‘It says people are thinking here'

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Posted: Monday, March 15, 2010 12:00 am

You might have seen this story from this weekend on the Rite of Spring statue. Here's a little bit more from a sculptor on the importance and permanence of artwork and how the stainless steel will age over time.

When people think of great cities, art is one of the main things they mention, especially iconic sculptures, artist Bob Emser said. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Sydney has the Opera House and New York has the Empire State building.

One of the biggest examples, Emser said, is the pyramids in Egypt. He said people spend so much time studying Egypt because there are so many prevalent artistic artifacts.

“There were probably other cultures back in those times that didn’t embrace the arts, and we don’t know about them,” said Emser, an artist from Illinois who specializes in large metal statues.

Because art is important historically, Emser said it is important for communities like Lodi to collect pieces significant to the city’s culture. After hearing about the Rite of Spring crane statue, Emser said it sounds like it would be a good fit with the city’s Sandhill Crane festival.

For the past 15 years, Emser has created usually 10 to 14 feet tall stainless steel statues for cities, counties, museums, colleges and universities. He works from an office in central Illinois, but his pieces are around the country. He said over the years the market for large statues has grown.

“It’s a cost effective way as an iconic marker for a municipality,” Emser said. “One of the things about having public sculptures in the community is it says something about the community because it says people are thinking here.”

He said one of the benefits of municipalities investing in sculptures is that it’s a permanent, especially stainless steel.

The crane’s shiny exterior will glisten permanently, Emser said, because it is made from stainless steel, which is corrosion resistant because it contains no iron.

Emser said he only uses stainless steel because the only maintenance for the statue is washing it once a year.

“Though they may not specify stainless steel, I use it because down the road in 5 or 10 or 20 years they are not going to stay that the joint rusted and fell apart. It is worth the extra cost in the material for my piece of mind,” he said.

The statues can either be cast or fabricated. The Rite of Spring was fabricated, which involves cutting metal tubing and welding them together, Emser said.

He said the value of the artwork depends on who made it. He used the analogy of an automobile either being the same value as when it was purchased 30 years ago or gaining value depending on how rare it is.

“It’s the provenance of the artist,” he said.

Regardless of the piece, Emser said it’s important for people to realize the importance of artwork.

“It’s always there, and always accessible to everyone,” he said.