We knew our friend and neighbor Tod Swiechichowski Tod-Swiecichowski_BW-150x150 was a major talent in architectural photography for over 20 years. (You can see examples of that at We’ve been to one of his shows, and he gave us a gorgeous computerized photo of our work-in-progress house as a gift shortly after we moved in.

Turns out he was a multi-talented guy all along who was ready to expand his horizons.

“Two years ago I went back to school to pursue other artistic mediums and have been working in metal, wood and stone.” Tod says. “Public art is my focus, though I am working in smaller scales to develop my concepts.”

He found a venue for public art in The Bernice Garden 2012 Sculpture Project.

“Michael Warrick, my fine arts teacher at UALR told me about the competition and encouraged me to enter,” Tod says.

Enter he did; he was cautiously optimistic about his chances of being chosen, even though he’s previously had a one-man art show and won many photographic awards.

“I thought the concept was well thought out but I have never done anything on that scale, so I kept my fingers crossed.”

A SoMa resident since 2001, Tod thought back over recent years to come up with a proposal that represented the neighborhood, its history and hope. He did it by combining a tornado and a flower.

“I thought of the tornado that came through the downtown in 2000, and I pictured the flowers that came back in the yard after a house was demolished across from me. It clicked that I had to turn this  shape into a flower showing the rebirth after the destruction,” Tod explains. “Just like what Anita [Davis] was doing on Main Street, turning a challenged neighborhood into a beautiful one!”

Winning had a double meaning for Tod, since his art has been on display in his own neighborhood – it felt great to win, he says, “but this is my first public art work. I still get a thrill when I drive by and see people looking at it.”

Tod says he would definitely recommend the competition to other sculptors and artists. To someone who might be hestitant, he says, “Do it! See what has been done before and try do better. Even if you are not chosen this time it is a great learning experience.”

The best part about winning for Tod (in addition to the fun of seeing his sculpture on display and being admired by others) is that it’s “a stepping stone into future competitions.

“To enter public art competitions you have to have experience but how do you get it? This gives you that critical experience.”

Life in SoMa is as unique as The Bernice Garden, and after all these years, Tod is still happy to be part of it.

“It is a wonderful thing to be a part of a community where people are interested, engaged and fearless about taking on the challenges others walk away from.”

If Tod’s story inspired you to enter the 2013 Sculpture Project, you still have a few days to get your proposal in: The deadline is 5 p.m Monday, April 15. You can download a call for proposal form here.