Bill McKown was a true friend of the Shafer Art Gallery. He passed away in March of 2014, but his legacy lives on through numerous art-related improvements that have been made on the Barton campus as a result of a generous gift from his estate. The final element funded by his estate is the “Winged Aspiration” sculpture which will adorn the circle driveway in front of the Shafer Gallery. Barton will unveil this aesthetic enhancement and at the same time pay tribute to the man that made it possible, Mr. McKown. A ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13 in front of the Shafer Gallery.
Bill J. McKown
Barton Coordinator of Fundraising and Special Events Coleen Cape said honoring McKown’s generosity was the primary goal when deciding how to use his gift.
“Bill loved Barton, specifically art classes, and he took as many as he could whenever they were available to him,” Cape said. “It was apparent he was a loyal supporter of the college, but no one could have possibly foreseen just how committed he was to Barton and its mission of providing excellence in education for our students and community.”
In April, the Barton Community College Foundation received notice it had been named as a beneficiary of his estate.
“To say that Bill’s gift was generous, would be a gross understatement,” Cape said. “It was a very substantial gift and in addition, it was given with absolutely no restrictions whatsoever. The Foundation was free to use the funds wherever they felt they were most needed. The Foundation prides itself on being prudent and caring stewards of all gifts made by our donors. It became our mission to find projects and enhancements that would have made Bill both happy and proud. Because of his love of art it was decided to fund much needed projects in the Shafer Gallery, Ceramics and Art Departments.”
The new educational kiosk in the gallery on how to build a bronze horse, equipment for the Ceramics Department and chairs, drafting tables, and computers for the art department were all made possible by the Bill J. McKown Memorial Fund. Finally, the “Winged Aspiration” sculpture was commissioned to be erected in the circle drive of the Fine Arts Building. This piece is a large reproduction of a wax mold created by Gus Shafer for a sculpture that was never cast.
Cape said McKown’s gifts have helped create a legacy at Barton that will not be forgotten.
“Bill loved art, art classes and the Shafer Gallery,” she said. “I know without a doubt that Bill would not be happier or prouder of what his gift made possible if he could have chosen these projects himself. For years to come, whenever a student steps into the classroom, a patron enjoys the gallery or eyes fall upon the statue as it reaches to the heavens in the sunlight, they will be beneficiaries of the generosity and vision of Bill J. McKown.”
About the “Winged Aspiration” sculpture
In the late 1970s, L.E. “Gus” Shafer produced a series of images in wood and wax as models for a monument to hope and the future. Although visually different from his western art images, these elegant wing-like abstract forms pull the viewer’s eye upwards like a finger pointing towards the sky and toward infinite possibilities.
Shafer Art Gallery Director Dave Barnes said the organizing committee felt it was appropriate to bring to life Gus Shafer’s vision as a public sculpture, which will link the Barton campus grounds with the interior spaces of the Shafer Gallery and the Fine Arts Building.
“The sculpture continues the gallery’s mission of promoting the Shafer legacy while creating an inspiring entry experience to the Fine Arts building and Shafer gallery,” Barnes said. “The sculpture, with its allusion to flight, connects the aspirations and hopes of fine and performing arts students, with our regional attention to the skies and the winged migrations of waterfowl. Its feather-like extension pointing towards the future functions as a concrete reminder that the goal of Barton Community College is to equip students to soar beyond their circumstances and to attain success and fulfillment beyond their present horizons.”
A limestone base and an array of limestone blocks were designed and arranged to include the word “aspire,” which make up the supplemental infrastructure of the entire installation.
Ellinwood Kansas sculptor Aaron McCaffery fabricated the 14-foot tall bronze rendition of Shafer’s piece. The Sculpture weighs around 900 pounds. Great Bend sculptor Chet Cale designed the base.