Monthly Archives: February 2012

Arthur Kraft’s Commerce Trust Arcade Fountain “Family”

Arthur Kraft sculpture "Family" pictured at its original location the Commerce Trust Arcade Fountain.
Commerce Trust Company, 922 Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri from 1961 to 1973
(Photo from the 1985 book "Fountains of Kansas City" by Sherry Piland)

In 1960 Arthur Kraft was commissioned by the Commerce Trust Company to create a sculpture for their new fountain that was to be installed at the Commerce Bank of Kansas City at 922 Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri. Arthur created the 81 x 29 x 24 inch bronze sculpture entitled “Family”. The piece was cast by James Wenkie at the University of Kansas City foundry and the sculpture was dedicated on October 22, 1961. It remained part of the fountain at this location until 1973, when it was dismantled because of water leakage on the property.

The sculpture was then kept in storage until 1989 when it was reinstalled as a freestanding statue at the Executive Plaza Office Building at 720 Main, Kansas City, Missouri. A plaque at the base of the sculpture was also added at this time that read ARTHUR KRAFT | AMERICAN (1922-1977) | Family.

In 2006 the Executive Plaza Office Building was put up for sale by the owners Tower Properties and the sculpture has once again been removed from the downtown Kansas City landscape. Has the sculpture been placed back in storage, sold, destroyed? At this time the whereabouts of the Arthur Kraft bronze sculpture “Family” remains a mystery.

 

Excerpt from the 1985 book, “Fountains of Kansas City” by Sherry Piland

The Commerce Trust Company at 922 Walnut (formerly the Commerce Bank of Kansas City) is distinguished by a narrow arcade along its front, with arched openings serving as an elegant “front porch” for the building. The narrow rectangular space which is formed between the arcade and the building also functions much like a courtyard.

In 1961, a majestic fountain was installed within this space. Although a beautiful work, its setting was not ideal as the fountain pool was somewhat awkwardly placed on the risers of the steps leading into the building and its support appeared precarious at best.

The fountain was a design of artist and sculptor Arthur Kraft and was composed of a figural group set within a rectangular retaining basin. The life-size bronzes portrayed a family group of a man, woman, and young boy. The figures were placed in the center of the retaining pool, and a spray ring with an outside fall surrounded the perimeter of the circular base. Jets were placed elsewhere in the pool, and their arching sprays turned the water in toward the figures.

James Kemper, Jr., the downtown leader responsible for installing this fountain, was optimistic about the effects the work might have: “Ours had long been regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in America, and this fountain shows our desire to contribute to the beauty. We hope that this fountain with its artistic sculpture might be a forerunner of similar objects of beauty at other downtown commercial buildings.”

The bank originally intended to operate the fountain year-round, but, unfortunately, problems developed with a leak into a basement office.

Sometime around 1973 the fountain was removed and placed in storage. There is a strong possibility that it may find a new home and a setting that will work to its advantage in a downtown office building now under construction for Kemper’s firm, Commerce Bancshares.

 

www.kcfountains.com

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Arthur Kraft – Walrus Walled In

Newspaper clipping from the Spokane Daily Chronicle – Nov 18, 1960:

Walrus Walled In
Artist Arthur Kraft of Kansas City, Mo., contemplates his Big Problem: How to get Albert, his 400-pound plaster walrus, out of his studio. Kraft says one doesn’t stop to consider the size of doors while in the throes of artistic creativity-and Albert just grew and grew as he sculptured him. But Kraft has figured out an answer-he is having a large glass window and part of an inner partition in his apartment removed so Albert can gain his “freedom.”


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Arthur Kraft Mosaic Owl From The Kansas City Public Library Mural

Posting from the askart.com Discussion board:

David Farmer – 11/07/2009

Kansas City Public Library Mural
I was fortunate enough to know Arthur and, along with a small group of his friends and associates, work for him on the assembly of the mural for the Kansas City Public Library. Under his direction, we hand cut and glued the mosaic tile to sections of stiff cardboard which were later transported to the site and installed in place by local union tile setters. It was a memorable experience working for the man and even these many years later, I can still pick out the various sections that I had a hand in assembling.

Since I have an affection for owls, he gave me a colored pencil and watercolor sketch of the owl that nests in one of the trees in the mural. I will always hold fond memories of Arthur and my experiences working under his direction.

Mosaic owl from the Kansas City Public Library mural


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Arthur Kraft 1960 Indianapolis Glendale Shopping Center Penguins Sculpture

Commissioned by Victor Gruen, architect of the Glendale Shopping Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Arthur Kraft sculpture was installed in 1960 and dedicated on October 12, 1960.

The sculpture portrays three golden, stylized penguins with their flippers spread standing around a silver ball, facing inwards. The three unsigned polished bronze penguins dimensions are overall approximately 51 x 72 x 58 in. with the tallest penguin being approximately 51 x 30 x 33 in. (350 lbs.).

The shopping center was enclosed in the 1970s to become the Glendale Mall, situating the Arthur Kraft sculpture indoors at that time.

Penguins at the Glendale Mall, 2005

In 2008, after nearly 50 years of serving the Indianapolis community, Glendale Mall was completely redesigned. To commemorate the new Glendale Town Center’s expansive makeover and grand reopening, Indianapolis design company, Sandpaper Studio was commissioned to create a new environment for the penguin area.

The grand reopening occurred on July 26, 2008 and featured a snow canopy over the penguin statues, iceberg blocks and a mix of playful and historic images from Glendale’s past, the space created an environment that celebrated the Center’s historical community presence and its purpose in the future.

“Designers can make a social difference with local projects,” states Torrey Dawley, owner of Sandpaper Studio, “and we are really excited to be creating a new home for the penguins where they serve as symbols of community for another generation.”

Current location at the Glendale Town Center lower level Library entrance

 

From the Glendale Town Center website:

The Legends Live On at Glendale Town Center.
With the help of our wonderful sponsors, Glendale Town Center boasts a new home for Wynkin, Blynkin and Nod, Indianapolis’ adventurous penguin trio! The statues were originally created as a gift to the first opening of Glendale Mall nearly 50 years ago, and have since become symbols of our incredible community. Kids of all ages will enjoy the experience, so swing by for a visit! The Legends Live On area is open the hours of the Library and is located on the lower level at the Library entrance.


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Arthur Kraft Painting “Soldier With Death Before A Carousel”

Title: “Soldier With Death Before A Carousel”
Date: ca. 1947-1951
Graphite and oil on poster board
Dimensions: 12.5″ x 15.75″

From the permanent collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
4420 Warwick Blvd. Kansas City, Missouri 64111


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Artist Sees – A Child’s World In Art

Newspaper article from November 1960 by Harry Rosenthal

Artist Arthur Kraft
“Look up! Look up!”

KANSAS CITY – Recently, during a heavy thunderstorm in the predawn hours, a long figure roamed the fairways of a Kansas City golf course exulting in the beauty of it all.

Artist Arthur Kraft considered it a natural thing to do. In fact, he wondered why more people weren’t there at 3 a.m. to see the spectacular display of lightning and driving rain.

“So much beauty goes to waste because people don’t bother to look,” says Kraft, who peers at life with the wide-eyed wonderment of a child. “Sometimes I want to shake people and say, `look up, look up, see how beautiful it all is.’

“I think like a child. What wonderful things they see. How easily they discard the ugly.”

The child-view world of 39 year-old Arthur Kraft, displayed through the craftsmanship of an adult, has put a menagerie of happy animals into the antiseptic beauty that is modern architecture.

At the entrance of the children’s wing of Kansas City’s new public library a whimsical parade of tile-formed creatures beckons young readers. Detroit’s mammoth new Northland shopping center is graced with Kraftian animals: a brass and red pussy cat, a laughing elephant joyfully waving his trunk and forelegs.

Most of Krafts sculpture is designed not only to look beautiful, but also to be climbed on, sat on and generally enjoyed by children.

“I don’t like things with little fences around them that say ‘stay off the art’,” he says.

Kraft prefers to work with architecture. “Art is something to be lived with every day, like food and water. It shouldn’t be hung away to be tasted seldom, if at all.”

Typically Kraft states that is favorite piece is the 35 foot library mural facing the street in the Kansas City civic center area. Done entirely in translucent glass tiles imported from Italy – each tile less than a half inch wide – the mural’s 80 colors and hundreds of subtle shadings blend into a dazzling and traffic-stopping panorama of color.

It has become quite a game among passers-by to find all the animals hidden in the trees and brush in the mural.

Kraft regards it as his finest work because it is for children. “If it can open the eyes of one youngster to beauty, it will be a success.” he says.

Despite his seriousness about art and children, Kraft works hard at being a character. He is a fun loving man with an absurd sense of humor.

He won a national painting award (the Audubon) years ago with a work titles “New York as seen by a casual observer through my great aunt Jennifer’s ouija board.”

In 1954 Kraft was chosen one of the country’s 10 outstanding young men by the National Junior Chamber of Commerce. A casual dresser, addicted to tie-less white shirts and tight corduroy pants, he found himself without a suit proper for the award-receiving occasion.

The man who sold him the suit recalls this conversation:

“I want a suit.”
“What kind of suit?”
“Oh, a black suit, I guess.”
“Well, (taking a black suit from a rack) here’s a black suit.”
“That one will be fine.”

Kraft has had one man shows at the Seligmann, a major New York gallery, and at the Laudau galleries, among others. For the latter he had 15 painting on the theme “Saints and Angels.” During the show the gallery burned and the only painting salvaged was a fierce portrait of the devil. He puts no mystic interpretations on this.

Kraft fancies bugs and has a large collection of preserved insects in his room. “See the beautiful colors in his eyes,” he’ll say to a visitor who is shrinking from a large roach.

For a studio, Kraft used a large basement room. At times, while making the library mosaic he had up to 20 helpers, mostly volunteers, pasting the tiles on large sheets he had mapped out.

No matter how busy he is Kraft will stop to be cordial to visitors. While pushing the deadline on an important painting for a New York fashion salon, he stopped to help a neighborhood candy store operator arrange the various colored sweets into an eye-pleasing display.

“It’s as important to him to have a beautiful package as it is to General Motors to have a beautiful car,” Kraft said, adding: “ And it’s important to me that things be beautiful.”


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Arthur Kraft Painting “The Lady”

Title: “The Lady”
Date: 1959
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 34″ x 26″


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