Union Station is set to add a shape-shifting display to the downtown skyline this summer with a huge floating sculpture described as jaw-dropping by one observer who knows a bit about art.
"When you see this sculpture fly, you’ll believe in magic," said Tony Jones, the president of the Kansas City Art Institute, who saw a similar work by the artist in downtown Los Angeles.
The silvery sculpture, "Reflecting Motion," is a canopy of 78,000 iridescent streamers woven by 13,400 feet of rope and covering an area the size of two basketball courts.
It will undulate on the breeze from 18 feet to 72 feet above the Haverty Family Yards on the north side of Union Station and be visible from I-35, the streetcar and the Crossroads Art District.
George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station, said he wants it to symbolize his institution’s connection to downtown and the Crossroads arts community.
"It moves in the air and is a giant sky sculpture on the forefront of the Kansas City skyline and in the center of the creative Crossroads," he said.
Union Station commissioned the work from artist Patrick Shearn, whose "Skynet Series" has been featured in Los Angeles, as well as in Berlin, Lisbon, Portugal, and Melbourne, Australia, and at the Coachella, Burning Man and Electric Daisy Carnival festivals.
"Reflecting Motion" is scheduled to take flight at a special opening event May 11 and remain aloft through Labor Day Weekend.
Jones was one of the guests at Tuesday's event announcing the project in the Union Station Regnier Extreme Theater.
"This is an art experience that is fantastic," he said. "It flies, it transforms itself and constantly changes, like clouds and vast wheeling flocks of birds."
Guastello said the sculpture was commissioned partly to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the opening of Science City.
"We're constantly trying to find ways to engage the community from Union Station," he said. "We create these magical moments, Instagrammable moments. We create these experiences and stories that people can relive."
The project was hatched with the help of the founders of Quixotic, an acrobatic performing arts group that has collaborated with Union Station previously. Guastello said Anthony Magliano and Mica Thomas of Quixotic were familiar with Shearn’s work.
Union Station was looking for something memorable to help achieve several goals: bridging the divide to the Crossroads District; making a statement about the interconnection of science and art and attracting younger adults.
"I know it will be a great credit to Kansas City's creative class," Guastello said.
CommunityAmerica Credit Union is sponsoring the installment, which Union Station said cost in the "low six figures."
"We are excited about Mr. Patrick Shearn's work because it will add to the uniqueness and beauty of our city," Lisa Ginter, CommunityAmerica CEO, said in a statement.
Tickets for the special opening event and fundraiser can be purchased here.
Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.