The city of Denison has announced the two student artists who will soon have their sculptures featured in Waterloo Lake Park as part of a new public art program. The Art in the Park program represents a new partnership between the city and art students from the University of North Texas.

The Denison City Council recently agreed to enter into an art loan agreement with Tucker Jones and Lexis Thompson, two art students from the college, for the year of the program. If successful, the program could see new art displays added to the park each year on a rotating basis.

“The goal of our Art in the Park program is to increase the amenities present in the Waterloo Lake Park system and to allow art students to showcase their current art projects in a public setting,” Denison Parks and Recreation Management Assistant Bill Medina said. “Outdoor art appreciation will help distinguish Denison parks from others in the region.”

The program will allow students from the UNT sculpting program to submit proposals each year for potential art installations at the park as part of their studies. This will allow the city to feature new sculptures each year following the fall college semester.

The Art in the Park program unofficially began in 2017 as a beautification project for all of the city’s parks. At the time, there were many tree stumps and dead trees that needed removal and officials pitched the idea of using these stumps as a medium for carved art.

From there, city officials reached out to UNT Assistant Studio Arts Professor Alicia Eggert to see whether it was possible to enlist students into the project. Eggert said that it was too late to start the project for the then-upcoming year, but said it would be possible to form an entire class around public sculpture for the next fall semester.

The class was officially started this past fall, and featured topics ranging from how to make a proposal to how to handle graffiti and vandalism.

“We are super excited about this,” Eggert said in November. “I think it is a win-win situation to learn from or benefit in different ways.”

In total, 13 proposals were submitted for the program’s first year. As part of the proposal, the artists were required to create models of the art that were then put on display in Denison Public Library this fall. The students were also interviewed by city officials and members of the art community and had to pitch their vision.

“For this year, and potentially moving forward, the students will be graded on a public art proposal specific for the city of Denison, meaning we are a part of the curriculum,” Medina said.

The city budgeted $3,000 for the art displays, including a one-time cost of $600 for the creation of two concrete pads. If the project is continued in future years, these pads can be reused for future exhibits, City Manager Jud Rex said.

This budget includes $1,100 for each artist to create their piece. Rex noted that the college has also dedicated additional funding for the project.

The two art pieces that were chosen to be placed in the park both drew their inspiration from the park itself. “Congruence,” a sculpture made by Jones, will feature steel beams crossing each other, similar to how a patch of nearby cattails moves in the wind. Thompson instead took her inspiration from the lake itself with her piece entitled “Skipping.”

“Whenever I first visited the park, I kept thinking about the fluidity of the lake,” Thompson said. “The more I thought about it, I thought about what you do around a lake, and that is skip rocks.”

Thompson, a native of Whitesboro, said she learned a lot from going through the process of organizing and planning the art display.

“It kind of made me appreciate people who often do landscaping,” she said. “I didn’t consider how wet the land would be a certain distance from the lake. It kind of made me learn about these things I need to know. … They don’t teach you how to carve the earth in school.”

Despite some limitations, Thompson said, public art brought other opportunities and creative freedom that other mediums and gallery art would not allow. Public art also would expose her creations to a difference audience that may not be from the traditional art community, she said.

The displays are currently slated to open to the public in late July and will run through the end of March 2020.