Tuesday's sculpture unveiling at the Santa Fe Depot served two purposes — it is a "seed" in the foundation of placing art in public places around Ardmore and symbolizes community art, and served as an unofficial opening event for the Oklahoma Arts Council annual conference being held in Ardmore this year.

The nearly 10-foot-tall granite sculpture was dedicated in front of a crowd of potentially several hundred people. It was made during one of Jesús Moroles' granite sculpture classes, sponsored by the Goddard Center twice per year.

"This particular sculpture had about six people working on it," Moroles explained. "It was really a group effort, a community project that really speaks to what people can do."

It features both smooth and rough facades, with several different angles and little nuances all over, creating something that looks different from every angle. Also, it provides people with something new to discover each time they see it.

"It's really nice, it has all the elements of the original granite piece with the rough edges, and the smooth parts that show what can be done to the granite," Moroles said. "It turned out really nice."

The sculpture sits just outside of the Santa Fe Depot in downtown Ardmore, which also serves as the headquarters for the Ardmore Main Street Authority.

"We're so honored and privileged to have it right out front," said Main Street director Julie Patterson. "It really is an excellent addition to Ardmore."

As do many of the other sculptures placed around the Ardmore area for similar purposes.

Jan Tindale of the Goddard Center said the statue at Santa Fe will serve as a "seed" to the potential growth of art in public places around Ardmore.

"We have art at Plainview, Dickson, Springer, Ardmore, so many other places that these students have made in these classes," she said. "It's part of our plan of putting community art in public places so the community can see."

Tindale's goal is to increase the amount of publicly displayed art from Central Park to the train depot and all throughout downtown Ardmore, bringing more and more people into the heart of the city.

"This is such a great start for that, but really, it's been happening subtly throughout the community at each of the schools," Tindale said. "This is just the beginning."

The crowd on hand for the unveiling also serves a significant purpose for Ardmore this week, as the Oklahoma Arts Council annual conference begins today at the Ardmore Convention Center.

More than 300 people from all walks of community and artistic avenues descended on Ardmore — some via the Heartland Flyer out of Oklahoma City — to partake in Ardmore's community culture.

"It's not just artists, it's community leaders, people interested in expanding their minds about how to promote and utilize arts and other assets in their communities," said OAC director of cultural development Molly O'Connor. "People from cities and towns of all sizes will come to this convention and leave with ideas to implement in their own communities."

Attendees who came Tuesday were treated to tours of Ardmore with former judge and Ardmore historian Tom Walker, as well as a trip to the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, the statue dedication and a presentation from deadCENTER film festival that included about 80 minutes of short films seen at this year's festival in Oklahoma City.

Officially, the kickoff starts today with presentations and workshops spread throughout the day.

"We have some national speakers and some very local speakers that will talk about how they implement their field into the community," O'Connor said. "Ardmore and southern Oklahoma have a very distinct culture, particularly with the Chickasaws, which is why there was a tour to the cultural center. It adds a different element to the conference that makes it unique.

"It's good to be back in Ardmore for this conference. We had the first one here in 2007, and to see it grow and everything new that's happened around here, it really gives people ideas to go home with. They can see what works here, the successful stories, and take that back with them. It's going to be a fun week."