Downtown Waxahachie can be seen in several new shades of color with its new interactive piece of public art.
The six-foot-tall kaleidoscope constructed of steel and glass was installed last Friday on the corner of Main and College Streets.
Downtown Development Director Anita Brown stated when she first saw life-size kaleidoscopes while visiting Mansfield that she knew they would be a perfect fit for the city. Eddie and Mary Elizabeth Phillips created the art pieces.
“It has been a long process. Eddie has done two in downtown Mansfield. One was on the east side of their downtown block,” Brown said. “When the Mellow Mushroom opened they built a larger one with two color wheels to go into the courtyard. I just loved them the first time that I saw them.”
Half of the funding for the $3,000 project came from a grant courtesy of the Anice Read Fund, which is part of the Texas Downtown Association.
The grants are awarded to use for physical projects, professional development, and program development. Some of the past grant recipients include the cities of Bowie, Denton, Odessa, Lewisville, and Seguin.
“We were awarded the grant in November at the Texas Downtown Association conference in McKinney,” Brown said. “The association provides small grants and financing for downtown projects that otherwise would not be able to be done. This is the first time that we got a grant.”
Brown stated the city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone board funded the remaining cost of the project. The board uses the taxes it collects to support improvement projects in downtown.
The Phillips' started work on the kaleidoscope in March. The glass and steel components used to construct the art piece are all recycled material.
Eddie stated the idea for the interactive works of art came from his wife, Mary Elizabeth, who had a fondness for kaleidoscopes from when she was a child.
“We have worked together for 15 years. I have been painting all my life, but I started working with metal about eight years ago,” Eddie said. “It kind of happened by accident. We went to a customer’s house, and we were talking about doing custom handrails. So we started talking and doing drawings. We gave him a bid, bought a welder, and started welding.”
Eddie explained the creation of this piece was a labor of love. The color wheel on the end of the steel tube took Marry Elizabeth two days of work in the kiln to create it.
“She has 26 hours of kiln time. Not to mention the assembly time,” Eddie recalled. “The glass and the mirrors inside the tube are pretty fragile too, but not as fragile as the actual art glass.”
Eddie shared the steel that makes up the tube and base were found at a scrap yard. It was then taken home and polished.
He noted that his previous creations have been built to last and will stand up against the elements. The same level of craftsmanship was put into the art piece located in downtown Waxahachie, as well.
To use the kaleidoscope, visitors simply need to spin the wheel at one end and look through the triangular opening at the other.
Brown explained the kaleidoscope’s location was carefully chosen to maximize its use by visitors.
“The reason why we choose that location is because it needs a constant light source. There is always light shining on the courthouse, and a street light is right there,” Brown explained. “So even at night, you would be able to enjoy the kaleidoscope because there are good light sources on that spot.”
Brown noted it adds another attraction on that side of courthouse square with the Waxahachie Walk of Fame that leads right up to the corner.
The kaleidoscope is the third public art project in downtown Waxahachie. The other two are murals. One is the baseball mural on the parks and recreation building on Elm Street. The second is the Waxahachie mural on College Street, which features cotton, the courthouse, and a crape myrtle tree.
Brown remarked there are some other public art projects in the works that will enhance downtown even more.