Johnson County’s newest public art project, called “Adaptation,” has been completed by Kansas City artist Matthew Dehaemers, a native of Johnson County. Dehaemers’ creation will be unveiled Wednesday, May 30, during the dedication of two new buildings at the Johnson County Department of Public Works and Infrastructure complex, 1800 West 56 Highway, in west Olathe. The public celebration, including tours of two new buildings, speeches, and a ceremonial ribbon cutting, starts at 10 a.m.
The project is unique. It’s kinetic, meaning it slowly changes its shape. It is approximately 16 feet in height when fully closed and extends to roughly 23 feet when fully opened in a series of three movements that are completed a couple times a day.
“When fully opened up, the forearm and hand-like structure mimics our own arms as well as the construction equipment that Public Works workers use on a daily basis. The ‘fingertips’ have a series of abstracted bird structures painted in construction yellow that appear to lift off in a V-formation into the air. The V-formation is symbolic of the team-like quality of Johnson County Public Works,” Dehaemers said.
Matthew Dehaemers was born and raised in Johnson County, growing up near 93rd Street and Mission Road in Leawood where his parents, Dave and Joyce Dehaemers, still reside. His father formerly worked in Olathe for 40 years, operating I-35 Auto Parts, an auto salvage business off of I-35 near Santa Fe Street. The artist graduated from Rockhurst High School in 1991. He received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (cum laude) in 1996 from Creighton University and a master’s degree in fine arts in 2002 from the University of Wisconsin. He has been awarded the Kansas Arts Commission Fellowship Award, the Joan Mitchell Fellowship, four Public Art Network Recognitions, and an NAACP Community Contribution Award as well as numerous residencies.