Exploring Mid-Missouri’s
unique state-inspired art piece.

To outsiders, Jefferson City is best known for landmarks like the Missouri State Capitol, the historic Missouri State Penitentiary, and Lincoln University. To its residents, this community is full of strong connections, genuine warmth, and incredible talent. And now, one of the largest community fingerprints, the Missouri Sculpture, acts as a prideful landmark and a symbol of Jefferson City’s strongest feature – its community connection. 

On a warm, sunny Friday afternoon in September, the combined time and talents of the community came to light with the unveiling of a Missouri-shaped Corten steel sculpture. This piece towers at 25-feet tall and features thousands of shiny discs that represent the Missouri River. Just as the Missouri River connects the east and west sides of the state, this sculpture connects individuals across the community. 

The aluminum river was filled with over 5,000 mirrored discs. The river piece of the sculpture was paraded around Jefferson City on a tour where over 500 students and faculty members from St. Peter Catholic School, the Special Learning Center, and the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson City left their marks. Colorful markers filled the tables as students wrote their names and drew designs on the stainless-steel discs before securing them onto the sculpture. 

This project was all thanks to local efforts, from conception and design to engineering and assembly. When the riverfront park on Adrian’s Island was being developed, the western area was identified as an ideal location for a public art installation. JC Parks approached engineering firm Bartlett and West with a conceptual design that reflected local pride and created a welcoming sight for capital city visitors. 

“We always envisioned something prominent at this location when initially designing the Bicentennial Bridge and Deborah Cooper Park on Adrian’s Island,” says Bob Gilbert of Bartlett & West. “The vision and collaboration resulted in something so unique that incorporates our overall connection.” 

That connection is evident through the remarkable collaboration of several local organizations. 

The Bicentennial Bridge and riverfront park vision were championed by the late B.J. DeLong. DeLong’s, Inc. manufactured the steel for the Bicentennial Bridge in 2020, but their involvement in bringing DeLong’s vision to fruition didn’t stop there. 

“We always envisioned something prominent at this location when initially designing the Bicentennial Bridge and Deborah Cooper Park on Adrian’s Island. The vision and collaboration resulted in something so unique that incorporates our overall connection.” 

Bob Gilbert, Bartlett & West

“Our local company was able to fabricate such a dynamic steel sculpture,” says Craig Buechter of DeLong’s, Inc. “The sculpture represents the community here and has a strong sense of belonging to the state of Missouri. We are proud to fabricate a unique sculpture that represents the true shape of our state.” 

Creating an accurate shape of the state of Missouri was no easy feat. The impressive craftsmanship is on full display, showing challenging angles and cuts, part placements, and welding marks in unique degrees. The piece was created with Corten steel, a special weathering steel that is renowned for its exceptional strength, durability, and resistance to the corrosive effects of rain, snow, and ice. Weather elements are commonly known to wear down sculptures, but with this piece, the energy from the sun and wind makes the Missouri River feature on the sculpture glisten and flow. 

Thanks to a collaboration with JC Park’s mechanic Ryan Dudenhoeffer (best known as a modern-day MacGyver) and Capital Machine, the team made the aluminum river come to life. Although each specially engineered disc moves independently, together, they work in tandem to create a flowing illusion of the Missouri River current. Just like the Jefferson City community, each individual piece is unique, but creating unity is where the shimmer lies. 

“This is special to me because it is something incredible for the city that raised me,” says Ryan. 

The Cain family of Capital Machine also helped make the sculpture special in more ways than one. Not only did they create the aluminum river element, their children, who are students at St. Peter Catholic School, attached a gold star on the Missouri River to represent Jefferson City. 

“I told them, ‘One day you will be bringing your kids down here and telling them about getting to put the gold star on,’” says Sarah Cain. 

For visitors, the sculpture can be a photo opportunity. It encourages a sense of pride in Missouri with the State Capitol towering in the background. For Jefferson City, this sculpture represents its connected community, filled with talented individuals, skilled businesses, and generous organizations that thrive when working together. And that is “Jefferson City strong.”