Sheldon’s 'Red Sea' inspires court facelift

· 5 min read

Sheldon’s ‘Red Sea’ inspires court facelift

City to host recognition event Oct. 5.
project backboard painting
Craig Chandler University Communication
Two South Antelope Park basketball courts have been painted into a giant mural. The mural design is based on a painting by African American artist Felrath Hines, entitled “Red Sea” created in 1985.

A national nonprofit is working with the Sheldon Museum of Art, Public Art Lincoln and Lincoln Parks and Recreation to bring artwork to the courts of Antelope Park South.

Project Backboard, a national nonprofit that brings art to public basketball courts, partnered with the local organizations to bring the painting “Red Sea” by the late Felrath Hines to the public basketball courts at Antelope Park South. “Red Sea” is part of the Sheldon’s permanent collection, and was painted onto the courts by two Project Backboard artists and community volunteers. Contractors were utilized for court resurfacing and court line painting.

Public Art Lincoln, an advisory board to the city of Lincoln on the community’s art collection, will hold an opening recognition event at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 5. at the courts. Refreshments will be served and athletes from the Lincoln Shooting Stars, Capital City Chameleons and Lincoln Sharks Special Olympics teams will play an opening game.

“We really wanted to bring a lot of local energy to this project,” said Savanna Falter, director of Public Art Lincoln. “Even though Project Backboard is a national organization, and they travel all around the country to do this, they’re very focused on community building. I think it’s also just highlighting art in a way that highlights exercise and being outside with your family or friends. Especially after the pandemic and people not being able to see each other, I think it’s really important that we try to make spaces that are in general more approachable for the public.”

project backboard mural in lincoln nebraska
Craig Chandler University Communication

“Red Sea” was chosen by Public Art Lincoln. The painting is one of two pieces gifted to the Sheldon by Hines’s widow, Dorothy Fisher, who also gave permission for the work to be re-created on the courts. The piece was chosen not only for its local significance, and the national prominence of the artist, but for its bold, geometric patterns that would be easily transferable to basketball courts.

“We really wanted to highlight a piece of artwork that was in a local collection that people can go and see,” Falter said. “We also wanted a design that wouldn’t be too complicated. “‘Red Sea’ was just the right amount of geometric design and color where it was still captivating but didn’t we weren’t going to have to stretch ourselves to include a lot more detail. Additionally, the artist Felrath Hines (1913-1993) was a great African American abstract expressionist, geometric abstract artist and someone who was of national prominence. His artwork is all over.”

Falter added that the project also helps bring awareness to Lincoln’s fantastic art collection, which includes nationally known artists and pieces that are used in art history books.

“Red Sea” is currently on display and will continue to be displayed prominently at the Sheldon Museum of Art until at least January, according to Wally Mason, director of the Sheldon and Public Art Lincoln board member.

people looking at the Red Sea painting in the Sheldon Museum of Art
Craig Chandler University Communication
Janelle Stevensen and Christian Wurst look over the Red sea in the Sheldon Museum of Art.

“To have this piece visualized on a basketball court is quite wonderful,” Mason said. “Visually it’s a very compelling image. Ultimately, what’s most important is that something’s visually interesting and exciting. I’m glad that the Sheldon could be a part of the project, and I believe there’s a lot of buy-in through the community with generous donor support and partnerships between the city, the museum and Public Art Lincoln.”

The project has been in consideration for over two years, as the parties secured private donors, selected artwork and more. The basketball courts were improved and resurfaced by a regional contractor before two Project Backboard artists and a community volunteer. The Project Backboard process is explained in detail here.

Project Backboard, which was founded in 2015, has completed numerous projects all over the country in pursuit of their mission to renovate public basketball courts and install large-scale works of site-specific art on the surface in order to strengthen communities, improve park safety, encourage multi-generational play, and inspire people to think more critically and creatively about their environment.

The project also supports Public Art Lincoln’s mission to bring public art to Lincoln and art that is of national significance. They look for art that would not only be great for citizens to see everyday but also art that stimulates tourism and the economy, according to Falter.

project backboard mural in lincoln nebraska
Craig Chandler University Communication

The court mural used 400 gallons of paint, and the project cost just over $50,000. The project was privately funded by an anonymous donor, Chelsey and Troy Kirk and Rembolt Ludtke LLP. Public Art Lincoln is still accepting donations for operation funds.

Overall, the project collaborators and looking forward to providing fresh basketball courts and art to community members.

“We know that they’re very popular courts and we are excited that we’re able to provide a renovated court for people in the area,” Falter said. “We hope that everyone enjoys them.”

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