Arthur Kraft’s Commerce Trust Arcade Fountain “Family”

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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