Riverside launches public art project

Riverside is launching a public art project based on a staple of the midwestern fall — monarch butterflies.

At the Tuesday, Sept. 25 board of aldermen meeting, Noel Challis of the city parks department spoke to the board about the park board’s public art project. For about a year, she said, the board has discussed ideas and how to proceed.

The city’s first public art project will focus on monarch butterflies and their importance as pollinators. As Riverside — and, in fact, the entire Kansas City metro area — is part of the annual monarch butterfly migration path, board members decided this was a fitting place to start.

The large orange and black beauties migrate every fall from the northern states to Mexico for the winter. In spring, the butterflies head back north to breed.

Riverside’s tribute will include six installations along the Line Creek Trail. Installations at the northern end of the trail would be community projects involving local schools, while the pieces further south would be commissioned from professional artists. The plan is to have the art installed by next fall.

Challis said the project has a starting budget of $15,000 from the Riverfest budget, but estimated costs are expected to be $57,000. The Riverside Tourism Commission has agreed to support the project with $40,000.

“Public art is so important anywhere,” said mayor Kathy Rose. “I just got back from Denver and it’s everywhere. In Pittsburgh, (Pa.) I went there and everywhere there is public art. It does draw tourism. Just our little informational signs along the linear trail — I see people stopping to read them all the time. I’m really excited about this project and I can’t wait to see what we actually come up with.”

According to Challis, the monarch migration art walk will help draw visitors from E.H. Young Riverfront Park onto the Line Creek Trail, and vice versa. The project could become a minor tourist attraction, drawing those interested in art to the city.

The Line Creek Trail within Riverside city limits is approximately three miles long, Challis said. The distance a monarch travels from St. Cloud, Minn. to Toluca, Mexico is approximately 2,091 miles. This is an equivalent of 7.5 feet along the trail for every mile flown by a monarch. The art walk will highlight different cities along that migration route. A person traveling along the trail will experience a scaled down version of the monarch flyway, visiting six “city sites” with art and educational signage.