28 Jun Big Book Statues Go On Display In Iowa City

Tam Bodkin Bryk was standing near her larger than life sculpture in the Pedestrian Mall, looking at her “Treasure Island” customized statue, when a college student approached her. “So, what’s up with all the giant books?”, the student said. The giant books are a tribute to literature, to reading, to creativity – the attributes that make Iowa City the country’s only City of Literature.

“BookMarks — Book Art in Johnson County” made its official debut this month with 25 giant statues in and around Iowa City. “These large statues, we believe, are the first public art display that celebrates reading, writing and literature,” Jeanette Pilak, executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

Similar to the Herky on Parade project in 2004, which showcased 75 public art statues of Herky the Hawk throughout the Iowa City area, BookMarks features Midwest artists’ take on literature, with big statues honoring classic tales from “Alice in Wonderland” and “Moby Dick” to Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium trilogy. Three more custom statues will be unveiled next month.

“A book tells a story and it’s different for each person who reads it,” said Jim Kelly. Kelly created three of the Herky statues for Herky on Parade and jumped at the chance to be part of another public art project. As co-owner of Lucky Pawz Dog Daycare & Boarding, Kelly had the distinction of being an artist and a statue project sponsor. His creations are “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “The Forever Road.” His wife, April Kelly, also created a BookMark statue – “Alice in Wonderland.”

Emily Vermillion spent roughly 250 hours on her “Once Upon A Time” creation. “I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted it to say,” Vermillion said. “I wanted it to be personal and also universal. I wanted it to be something people of all ages could relate to.” Her love of classic fairy tales inspired “Once Upon A Time.” The black-and-white creation depicts scenes from multiple classic tales, including “Cinderella” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“It’s a charming and diverse project,” Vermillion said. “Each creative statue reflects the artists’ different styles. It’s just fun.” More than 40 artists submitted more than 60 designs for BookMarks. The winning designs were selected by project sponsors, local businesses eager to support Iowa City’s literary reputation.

“Growing up, I spent a lot of time in downtown Iowa City and at the public library,” Charlie Nusser of Hands Jewelers said. “They were good to me and I’m happy to help them.” Colleen Bradford Krantz made the trip to Iowa City from Adel specifically to see the “Train to Nowhere” statue. She is the author of the book, which was released today. “I haven’t seen it in person yet,” Bradford Krantz said of the statue located near the entrance of Old Capitol Mall on Clinton St. She did see a photo of it on Facebook, thanks to a friend who snapped a picture earlier this week. “The big book came out before the little book,” she laughed. Ice Cube Press of North Liberty published Bradford Krantz’s book. University of Iowa Bookstore sponsored the “Train to Nowhere” statue. Doug Ward, a trade book buyer for the bookstore, said the idea was to go local. Local artist. Local publisher. Local writer on a local subject.

“It’s all here,” Ward said. “That’s why we went the direction we did.” Publisher Steve Semken said he’s proud to have one of his authors be part of the project. “It’s the opposite of an eBook,” Semken said. “We’re going bigger.”

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