KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Artists and work crews Thursday began erecting a new sculpture at the redeveloped Linwood Shopping Center to celebrate the anniversary of the city's urban renewal project.
The public display has special significance for those on the east side. The sculpture depicts the long struggle to turn blight into beauty on the street corner, and create a much needed asset for neighbors.
"The whole idea behind it is kind of bringing the community together," said artist Ed Dwight.
The 85-year-old sculptor created "Phoenix Rising Out of the Ashes" as a testament to the community's perseverance.
The KCK native was America's first African-American astronaut and has created 129 works of public art since leaving the U.S. Air Force.
He hopes this display will inspire others to never forget their community.
"I’m concerned about the, as I’ve traveled from city to city doing these things, the lack of strong powerful African American businessmen," Dwight said. "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."
Five figures on top of the 16 foot tower of rolled copper represent east siders who've endured the fire of stagnation and now are striving for progress. A strobe light will illuminate them from the base.
The $250,000 display is part of the city's commitment to devote 1 percent for art on public projects.
"We need more sculptures that look like us in our communities," said Maurisa Banks, after viewing the sculpture. "Hopefully to give us some type of hope, some type of remembrance, some type of grounding in our community. To let each other know we’ve done something. We are doing something. There’s much more in Kansas City, in this area, than violence."
City leaders concede there are still some crime concerns at the 40,000 square foot grocery store that anchors the retail center. But with nearly $15-million in both public and private money invested, nearly everyone is committed to driving out those who would reverse the progress.
The sculpture officially will be unveiled on June 29, as part of a two week anniversary celebration.
A fashion show, gift card giveaways and children's activities begin Saturday at the shopping center as part of the revitalization celebration.