The installation “Phoenix Rising Out of the Ashes” is surrounded by brown plaques that tell the history of African Americans in Kansas City.
A few years ago, the intersection of Linwood and Prospect was a high-volume intersection on Kansas City’s east side, but there was little reason to stop. A few businesses were hanging on, but concerns about safety and selection, didn’t give much reason to stop.
Now, thanks to $15 million in both public and private money, the intersection is thriving. Just one year ago, the newly renovated 40,000 sq. ft. Linwood Shopping Plaza opened, anchored by a high-quality, full-service super market – Lipori Sun Fresh – with a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, a delicatessen, bakery, and pharmacy.
Now, timed to coincide with the renovated center’s first anniversary, the City unveiled a new 16-foot art installation by renowned artist Ed Dwight. Like most Dwight installations, the project is more than just art, it’s also about history.
Dwight calls the piece “Phoenix Rising Out of the Ashes,” as a reflection of the rebirth of the community. Out of the hollow column, that in a way resembles the base of a tree, are people (5) of the community: young and old, but led by a Black businessman.
"I’m concerned about, as I’ve traveled from city to city doing these things, the lack of strong powerful African American businessmen," said Dwight in an interview with a Kansas City Fox 4 reporter. "Which is why I put the businessman on the front of the thing, in order to encourage these young men to stay in school, get educated and come back to the community and contribute to the community. That’s what that whole thing is all about."
Arranged around the sculpture are 12 stone bases with bronze plaques, where Dwight shared the history of African Americans in Kansas. Even though Dwight grew up in Kansas City, KS, it was the history he found he didn’t know.
“I got to digging into the history, and it turns out that Blacks came here in the 1600s and the French brought them here from Haiti,” said Dwight.
The history of Kansas City he shares begins in 1600 when the slaves first arrived.
“I walk through early pioneers. I walk through the whole history of KC with those bronze plaques,” Dwight said.
The $250,000 display is part of the city's commitment to devote 1% for art on public projects.
Dwight, 85, is a world-renowned artist. Since he first began sculpting in the early ’70s, he has been commissioned and installed around 130 public art and large-scale memorials across the country. In 2009, Ed was honored with the commission to create an historical life size sculpture presentation of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration scene. The scene includes the President, the First Lady, the two Obama girls and Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath. The exhibit is on tour throughout the U.S. in museums and other venues.
If you like his work, prepare to dig deep into your wallet to afford a piece of Dwight’s art. It’s hard to find even one of his smallest pieces for less than $200. For one of his table-top pieces – say approximately 2 feet tall by 2 feet long – prepare to shell out from $10,000 to $20,000.
Check out more of his work online at eddwight.com.