Oil on masonite
Dimensions: 36″ x 28″
Star Magazine article by Georgia Kidd – December 2, 1979
Chic – Chic Piece
Sculpture in public places is a continuing pleasure to the passerby (“Sheep Piece” is a great example) and it’s one of the things that has marked the development sponsored by the JC Nichols Co. It always gives us good things to look at. It’s easy not to think of the Nichols Co. as a public service organization when it is so visibly a commercial enterprise, but it must be said that it builds what it builds with real style and an attention to quality that few other folks would even think of putting into shopping centers. That style and quality is a community service.
The Court of the Penguins is a fine example. For sheer chic, you can’t beat these shops – a little Gucci here, some Crabtree & Evelyn there. But while most of the best things in life aren’t free, as the shops show us, some of the best things in the Court of the Penguins are: the Penguins themselves and their environment, which doesn’t cost a cent to enjoy.
The Penguins are five-foot bronze reproductions of miniatures, which originally stood at three to four inches tall by the late Arthur Kraft, a local artist famous for, among other things, the mural at Westport Bank, the mosaic mural at the Children’s Library and the sculpture in the garden at Commerce Bank.
Kraft’s work had a whimsical side (he once did an elephant on its back for a shopping center), and he particularly liked penguins. Three identical sets of these penguins were made and are in private collections in this area.
For admiring the bronze birds and their surroundings, there are three mahogany benches given to the Plaza customers by the Plaza Executive Business Women’s Club. Also look closely at the tile that pictures a pyramid of penguins, with a nice touch of humor, Miller Nichols had the initials of members of the Nichols Co. board of directors put onto the penguins with the premier penguin perched on the pile marked, of course, M.N.
One of Arthur Kraft’s best known works in the Kansas City area is the “Court of the Penguins” Fountain at 525 Nichols Road on the Country Club Plaza.
The bronze penguin sculptures were cast posthumously in 1979 and dedicated on October 10, 1979.
The sculpture includes two free-standing pedestal fountains each approximately five feet tall on either side of the penguin grouping. There are three bronze penguins each approximately five feet tall, in varying positions of outstretched wings, on the east, west and south of a Spanish ‘clover-leaf’ area of paved brick.
The basins of each fountain are quatrefoil in shape and constructed of red stone. Each fountain has two basins, an upper and lower, which flow into one another. Three griffins, placed back-to-back, support the lower, larger basin. Figures of dolphins are featured between the griffins.
This sculpture is very similar to Arthur Kraft’s other penguin sculpture that he originally created in 1960 for the Glendale Shopping Center in Indianapolis, Indiana and is still on display at the Glendale Town Center Library entrance.