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Art Review: Rails and Wheels

Wichita is rich in public art. It is a point of pride for this town, and with this beautiful spring weather, now is the time to seek it out.

If you want to see Wichita’s newest project, head to Old Town. A relatively little known public art installation is going in along the west wall of the railway corridor off 1st Street on Santa Fe. It is called “Rails and Wheels,” and the first stages of this major installation are ready for view.

These are industrial compositions made from railroad materials donated by Union Pacific Railroad. The lead designer, Drew Meek, spearheaded the acquisition of the rails, switches, bells, headlights and other raw materials needed for the project.

Each industrial sculpture is made according to four major themes: Train Time, Electric Train, Railroad Crossing, and Time Piece– the ever-important instrument that keeps order. These materials and the larger compositions are welded together in dynamic geometric patterns.

Long, straight rails reach to the sky in sharp diagonals, invoking the mechanical motion that inspired the art of the early-20th-century Futurists. Metal circles and arcs bring movement to the hard angles and help create motion. Fabricated steel components and ceramic tiles will eventually embellish the final railroad constructions.

To see what “Rails and Wheels” will develop into over the next two years, preparatory models and schematics are on view on the lobby gallery at 121 N. Mead. This building houses Mead Street Gallery, Lynn Ziegler Gallery, Murillo Studios, and NakedCity Gallery. This small but handsome exhibit is open to the public and will give an idea of what is down the line for Wichita.