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Noble Roe Man

A piece of public art slips out of view for now.

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Last spring, the city of Roeland Park installed seven sculptures around town for its "Art in R Park." The program, which started in 2007, rotates works by Kansas City Art Institute students every six months.

Over the summer, one sculpture stood out: "Ponder," a massive carved-stone figure created by Derek Webster, depicted an alien-looking bald man sitting on the ground, his knees up and his ankles crossed. An oversized sphere made up one eye, and one upturned hand rested on his knee.

Located in a median near 55th Street and Roe, "Ponder" — or Roe Man, as The Pitch dubbed him — started attracting props. One day, a blue beer can appeared on his hand. Later, he held a honeydew melon. During the Olympics, he sported a gold medal around his neck (tied on with a red-white-and-blue-striped ribbon). He toted a cluster of birthday balloons. Most recently, at the beginning of October, he wore a sweatband around his head and a T-shirt attached to his back to advertise RoeFest.

Sadly, Roe Man was removed right after RoeFest to make way for the next batch of sculptures. And the city of Roeland Park has no plans to restore him to his perch.

"The purchase price was $17,000," City Administrator John Carter says. "We didn't have $17,000."

Carter explains that the program pays the artist a $1,500 stipend for the six-month showing. "Those we have been able to purchase, the artists either decided that for $1,500, they'd go ahead and sell it to us, or maybe the asking price was a little greater, but when it came time to remove it, they said, 'Well, OK, fine. I'll go ahead and sign it over to you for the $1,500," he says.

Fundraiser, anyone? Bring back Roe Man! More props!

For now, the third round of sculptures is out. This time, a round orange-and-yellow object with a squiggly tail has gone up close to Roe Man's old home. It's called "Golden Root," but it looks more like "Sperm at Sunset."

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