- Associated Press - Sunday, January 22, 2017

GARLAND, Texas (AP) - Sculptor Barvo Walker admits he missed the mark when he first envisioned a new work for downtown Garland. Instead of focusing on the area’s renaissance, Barvo - as he is commonly known - recalled its leaner days of times past.

“The last time I had been in Garland was probably 30 years ago,” Barvo said during a recent interview. “I thought Garland was this little country town.”

The Dallas Morning News (https://bit.ly/2jsvBK3 ) reports downtown Garland has instead transformed over the last decade with new apartments, restaurants, renovated structures, niche shopping and a rail station.

Barvo’s bronze, 20-foot Vision of the Arts sculpture will help highlight the reformation and the city’s lifeline to the arts. The $300,000 statue will debut in late spring in front of the Granville Arts Center, a venue the city built in 1982 to rejuvenate its struggling downtown.

“People would come to Garland and say, ‘Wow, I never knew you had something like this,’” Cultural Arts Commission chair DeAnne Driver said of the arts center. “It is the beacon for downtown Garland. The piece de resistance is that final statue.”

Within the arts center’s first year, concerts, plays and other social events there drew 100,000 to Garland’s core. The events educated many outsiders to the illustrious heritage in the arts in what was commonly thought to be a blue-collar town.

Other cities took note and many sent delegations to Garland to check out the novel approach of putting two stages in one building. Over the decades, area civic theater features can be traced to Garland, said Patty Granville, the arts center’s director since its opening.

“The highest compliment we could have been paid is when a task force from Highland Park came and said they wanted an arts center just like ours,” Granville said. “This has been kind of the granddaddy, the big brother of them all.”

Part of that reputation was Garland’s drive for everything to be first class. So when it came to the topper - downtown’s signature piece - it turned to an artist with enough acclaim to be professionally recognized by his first name.

“My mother made that name up. She said she didn’t want a common name,” Barvo said. “When I was growing up, nobody could pronounce it and kids made fun of it. But as an artist, it works very well for me.”

The Garland Center for the Performing Arts was last expanded in 2003, just as Dallas Area Rapid Transit rail arrived next door. A signature piece of artwork was budgeted for the entrance then, but money for the project ran short.

Also in 2003, the center was renamed to honor Granville. But the honor was far from a going-away gift or the mark of a farewell tour. For 35 years now, Granville has gone to work daily in the building. She has found a kindred spirit in Barvo, who is 84 and fully engulfed in the ongoing projects he oversees out of his Oak Cliff studio.

He appreciates Granville’s clout when it comes to the arts in Garland. With city projects, artists often have to deal with boards and commissions, elected officials and others - all of whom want to have an influence over their project.

“In the many places I’ve worked, I normally don’t enjoy working with a committee,” he admits. “But this has been the most delightful experience. It all comes down through Patty.”

Through the director and commission, private donations will pay for two-thirds of the sculpture. That was to be a 10-year process, with the city putting the full payment up front. Instead, the commission is more than halfway to its $200,000 goal.

The neighboring apartments put in a $25,000 chunk, receiving in return the best views from their third-floor balconies along Fifth and Austin streets. Those who contributed at the $2,500 level received 33-inch bronze maquettes, miniatures of Barvo’s sculpture.

Faces on the sculpture were available to those who contributed $2,200. Those close to the Garland scene will recognize the likenesses of former Mayor Ronald Jones and others - including, on piano, Linda Brownlee, longtime chair of the arts commission. On the day she died, Brownlee had asked that donations be made to the sculpture. Those totaled more than $9,000, Granville said.

Brownlee was also the person who got Barvo to submit ideas for the project.

“Barvo brought us this thought of individual people with instruments, in a circle, the concept of almost a movement of the arts,” Granville said. “It was, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ when we saw it.”

“It was unanimous,” Driver recalled. “That’s it. That’s what we were looking for.”

Barvo said he wants his Vision of the Arts to transcend time. To capture kids’ imaginations, there’s a mouse escaping from one man’s pocket and a cat watching upward from between the man’s feet.

But Barvo also believes his main duty is to define a culture. And he said he is as excited about what is coming to Garland as for what he has delivered in England, Egypt or Taiwan.

“I feel extremely honored and privileged to do it,” he said. “It’s a very sophisticated, urban city.”


Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com

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