Effingham Daily News
When people look at one of artist Jeff Boshart’s sculptures, they may see a group of hollow steel boxes. The connected boxes, however, actually aren’t hollow.
“When you look at just the boxes, you see that they’re always full of something,” he said. “You cannot look at them and not see what surrounds them.”
The yellow sculpture, called “Caution,” is just one of the 28 sculptures located in downtown Effingham, and one the Eastern Illinois University professor created with his students. It has become a permanent fixture on the old Effingham County Courthouse lawn, as well as another one of Boshart’s creations, “Blue Note.”
While both are similar in structure, Boshart asked those who participated in a guided walk of the sculptures Wednesday what is different about them other than color.
“It’s vertical, no diagonals,” he said.
The subtle difference was created by accident in Boshart’s studio and reminds him of Chicago jazz.
“I look at this and listen to what it tells me,” he said. “It has a more musical shape.”
Boshart said the sculpture actually takes on another dimension.
“When it rains, it collects water and the rain comes out in different directions. It’s fun to watch,” he said.
Sculpture on the Avenues has inspired some of Boshart’s students to create their own artwork that have become a part of the outdoor exhibition. “For me, it’s like coming back and looking at alumni,” he said.
Boshart said it’s not always easy to attract artists for the exhibition.
“One year, you may a huge number of people applying and next year, practically no one,” he said.
Former Effingham mayor Bob Utz agreed. The search for a perfect sculpture outside a newly built city hall in 1997 led him to a world famous artist and, in turn, the exhibition people see today.
During the search, Utz, who participated in the walk Wednesday, came across a sculpture by Leonardo Nierman while on a trip to Chicago. After tracking down the artist, Nierman agreed to sculpt a piece for the city, “Flame of Hope.” Surprisingly, Nierman did not want any money for the work despite having pieces in the Vatican and the Louvre in France and commanding prices of more than $250,000.
“That was a big deal for Effingham. That’s what started it,” he said of the exhibition.
Artists have managed to sell some of their sculptures featured in the exhibition, but Boshart said the art form is not about money.
“If it weren’t fun, we wouldn’t do it,” he said.