GREENSBORO — Come late 2020, a new outdoor sculpture will greet visitors to the Greensboro Science Center.

The $225,000 project with the Public Art Endowment of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro will transform the entry plaza to the center at 4301 Lawndale Drive.

“We want our entire front entrance to be a work of art that inspires every visitor about what is possible in our changing community,” said Glenn Dobrogosz, the center’s chief executive officer.

The $225,000 consists of $75,000 from the Public Art Endowment, and $150,000 raised by the Community Foundation, the endowment and the science center.

The endowment also will provide up to $30,000 in project administrative services.

Among the next steps: choosing an artist to create the sculpture that depicts how science and art can be intertwined.

The project attracted applications from 95 artists around the country.

Endowment trustees and a sculpture committee narrowed the list to three finalists: Billy Lee of Greensboro, David Hess of Phoenix, Md., and Julian Voss-Andreae of Portland, Ore.

On Jan. 26, the finalists will visit the site. They will review their past projects and present their thoughts on this one to Public Art Endowment trustees. Trustees will choose an artist the following week.

Cheryl Stewart, consultant to the Public Art Endowment, said she hopes the sculpture will be completed by the end of 2020.

Since 2008, the Public Art Endowment has provided within the city five permanent outdoor artworks, nine temporary artworks loaned by artists, and two interactive and temporary art projects.  

Among the permanent works are the colorful Janet Echelman sculptural net, titled “Where We Met,” billowing above the downtown LeBauer Park, and Billy Lee’s sculpture “Guardian II” on the grounds of the Old Guilford County Courthouse.

In 2018, the nonprofit science center attracted more than 440,000 visitors.

The sculpture will be part of its expansion and renovation projects, designed to bring more immersive attractions, eye-catching artwork and additional opportunities to explore science and history.

Planned attractions will include a new Malayan tiger exhibit, a butterfly house, and a Greensboro Rotary Club-financed carousel featuring hand-carved animals.

The $18 million cost of the eight projects has been financed by city bond funds and private donations, Dobrogosz said.

Stewart is pleased with the science center sculpture project and the finalists.

She and others involved envision it as a kinetic, playful, child-friendly piece.

It will be located either in the grassy middle of a circular driveway in front of center buildings, or in one of two grassy areas nearby. 

“I love the fact that we are getting public art pieces outside the downtown area and into other sections of Greensboro,” Stewart said. “I love that we are reaching out toward the north with the science center. … The sculpture will be a significant initial piece that says ‘This is an important area of our city.’”

Lee has retired as a longtime art professor at UNCG. An award-winning sculptor, he has placed his large outdoor art around the United States and abroad, particularly in China. 

“I feel that an interactive and contemporary installation that is playful and innovative is very appropriate for a science museum,” he wrote in his letter of interest.

Hess has created public artworks around Baltimore, Md., Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia. 

If chosen, he said, he would create a piece for the science center of highly durable materials such as stainless steel, glass, concrete and stone.

“The vast majority of my work marries science and art,” Hess wrote. “I view every sculpture as a giant physics or chemistry experiment by creating objects that seem to be in motion or a frozen snapshot of a chaotic natural event. I also believe that public art should illuminate a hidden phenomenon at play in the landscape, such as electricity, water or gravity.”

Voss-Andreae has created large-scale public and private commissions across the country and abroad.

A scientist-turned-sculptor, “I envision a signature work that captivates and inspires, enticing the audience to interact playfully,” Voss-Andreae wrote. “Inspiring the sense of wonder is the fundamental prerequisite of all science education.”

Stewart likes what the finalists say.

“They understand what we want to do for this particular piece,” Stewart said. “We want to capture the synergy of art and science together. You see the piece, you will say it’s beautiful and interesting visually, but it will take you further than just a visual experience.”

She hopes that the sculpture becomes like LeBauer Park’s “Where We Met.”

“You would go and get your picture taken by it, and hopefully stay and go to the science center or the carousel or enjoy the park,” she said.

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