New Sculpture Welcoming Visitors to Norman's Newest Library Celebrated with Dedication Ceremony

Prairie Wind is in the final stages of fabrication at Johnson's studio and soon set to be transported to Norman for installation.

Prairie Wind is in the final stages of fabrication at Johnson's studio and soon set to be transported to Norman for installation.

Norman’s latest public artwork — made possible by the Norman Forward 1% for Art program — will greet visitors at the new East Branch Norman Public Library, which opens to the public on Friday, July 20. A dedication to the sculpture, titled Prairie Wind, will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 28. 

The dedication will take place outside the library, 3001 Alameda Street. Parking at the site is limited. You may wish to carpool or park on Ridge Lake Blvd. in the Summit Lakes Addition. 

Illinois-based artist James Johnson has been fabricating the sculpture since being chosen last summer. The $30,000 project sought artists through an open call for requests for qualifications this past fall, attracting 125 applicants from across the country and world. 

A selection panel composed of a City of Norman designee, Public Arts Board member, Norman Arts Council board member, Ad Hoc Committee member, the designer/architect of the complex, Norman Forward representative, Library representative, arts expert and at large community members deliberated over artist qualifications. 

The 1% for Art project team encouraged artwork that would complement the beauty of the site and the architecture of the building, expressing a spirit of wonderment, curiosity and learning inherent to all libraries. Johnson’s proposed sculpture hit all those marks, taking cues from the natural environment of the site and the building itself. 

The sculpture was constructed with Corten steel, the same material being utilized on the façade of the Library building. The artwork is 14 feet tall and weighs approximately 4,000 pounds, making it clearly visible to street traffic and visitors alike. The sculpture will also be positioned so that during the Solstice, the sun will shine through the sculpture and onto the building.

Johnson is well-versed in creating large scale public art works, having completed numerous works currently on permanent and temporary exhibition in Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri and Iowa. He is inspired by ancient cultures, especially that of the Mayan and Inca, as a means to communicate lifestyle and culture. With a career spanning over 40 years, the sculptor has taught in colleges across the Midwest when not working on his own craft. 

Johnson’s work will join Mark Aeling’s SPLASH — located at the recently opened Westwood Family Aquatic Center — as Norman’s two newest public art projects made possible through the Norman Forward 1% for Art program. Details about the proposed work at the new Central Branch Norman Public Library will be announced soon, as well.