Johnson City unveils final sculpture for 2019-21 season

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Jun 20, 2019 at 7:47 PM

Johnson City’s public arts scene got a big boost Thursday morning — literally and metaphorically.

Braving some brief downpours, nearly a dozen people were on hand at the intersection of West State of Franklin Road and University Parkway for the installation of the 14th and final piece of the Johnson City Public Art Committee’s 2019-21 Biennial Sculpture Exhibition.

“We’re really trying to make (Johnson City) an area that’s known for art,” said Nancy Fischman, Chair of the Johnson City Public Art Committee.

After Thursday, Fischman and the rest of the committee are that much closer to making that a reality, and the Biennial Sculpture Exhibition is a big reason why.

“It’s extremely important (to bring art to the public), and it’s something I’ve been interested in in the 40 years I’ve lived here,” Fischman said. “I’m just excited to be part of this.”

The 2019-21 exhibition features regional artists, as well as some from Ohio, Indiana and Rhode Island, where the artist behind the city’s final art piece calls home.

“It feels good (to have the sculpture up), I like this location because so many people passing by are going to see it,” said Mike Hansel, who built the sculpture. “That’s the goal, to get out there and bring art to the public.”

Hansel said the sculpture, “Intestinal Fortitude,” took him about three weeks to build, and was brought from Rhode Island to Johnson City on a more than 12-hour drive.

The idea for the design actually comes from coral formations, but Hansel said, to him, it looks kind of “tubular, almost intestinal,” which is how he came up with the name.

“Intestinal Fortitude” and the other 13 sculptures on display throughout the city aren’t all the Public Art Committee is doing to bring the arts to the people.

In addition to this year’s sculptures, which were funded with $30,000 of privately raised donations, Fischman and the rest of the committee have been procuring murals around downtown Johnson City, and they’re also putting together an arts festival to take place in late September, plus a lot of other ongoing projects.

As Fischman notes though, all the projects are done with one goal in mind: to highlight local artists.

“This is a way of promoting, not only artists from outside the region, but also local ones,” she said. “I think it’s a way to get local arts more involved, get people to realize we have local art here that’s worth purchasing.”

“I think the work the Public Art Committee is doing is trying to promote local work,” she continued. “I think people are realizing that there is good art here, there’s good craft here and we really need to start supporting local arts.”