If a drive through downtown McKinney has been a part of your day at any time over the past year, you would be hard-pressed to miss the appearance of a new building at the southwest entrance to the square (205 W. Louisiana Street). Construction of the two-story building, zoned for retail and office space, began last fall and was initiated by long-time McKinney resident and real-estate developer Don Day. For those of you familiar with Don and his dedication to supporting the arts in our community, you will not be surprised to learn he commissioned local artist Jake Dobscha to carve a sunflower from stone to be attached to the façade of the new building.
The sunflower is the fourth piece of public art Mr. Day has commissioned from Jake in the past five years. In 2013, Jake carved a buffalo to be placed in front of Day’s building at 206 S. Kentucky Street. The owl in front of the McKinney Chamber of Commerce (400 W. Virginia Street) was erected in 2015. In the following year, 2016, a watch dog was dedicated to all public servants in uniform and sits in front of the building at 230 Hunt Street. The buffalo, owl, and dog were all carved by Jake and built on site. The sunflower is the first of these carvings that isn’t free-standing and won’t be built on site. In fact, it won’t be attached until the building’s brick installation is completed in late June; therefore Jake carved the majority of the sunflower in his studio.
I was curious how the local real estate developer and artist became acquainted, so I met with Jake over coffee and learned how this unlikely duo became purveyors of public art in McKinney. “We originally met when Don became interested in a painting I completed in 2003 called The Cotton Pickers, which now hangs in the McKinney Performing Arts Center,” Jake told me. It was ten years later that Day commissioned the buffalo carving. “Right off the bat, Don and I worked really well together. He has a great mind for detail. He knows what he wants but also trusts me and can be flexible.”
During our conversation, I learned a bit more about the work involved in creating the sunflower. Although the original mock-up was done in clay, Jake obtained limestone from Leuders, Texas to carve the actual sunflower. For approximately 150 hours, Jake used small grinders with diamond blades, rotary chipping hammers, Dremels, and large saws to create the iconic flower. The use of these particular tools is very unique to Jake; most stone carvers use pneumatic air tools when working with pieces of this size.
When complete, the sunflower will weigh over 700 pounds and have a 4-foot diameter. “I want people to take time to notice it,” Jake answered when I asked what he hoped the sunflower would bring to downtown. “It will be at home two-and-a-half stories in the air, and I hope downtown visitors will make it one of their destinations when visiting.” After learning of the sunflower and the other stone carvings Jake has created for our community, I also plan on taking greater notice of public art in order to appreciate the artistry and aesthetic they bring to McKinney. May I express my great appreciation to Mr. Day and Mr. Dobscha for the beauty their visions-turned-reality bring to all who pass them.
The Sunflower Sculpture unveiling will be held at 6:00 PM on July 5th. I hope all of you will join us and see for yourself the fantastic detail and symmetry Jake has created from a 700-pound chunk of Leuders, Texas limestone. Jake and Mr. Day will be in attendance as well as Mayor George Fuller who will provide the introduction.