“Aspiration, and the Japanese Character Justice Sculpture” at Kay's Garden in the Topeka Zoo, Topeka, Kansas - CODAworx

“Aspiration, and the Japanese Character Justice Sculpture” at Kay’s Garden in the Topeka Zoo, Topeka, Kansas

Submitted by Joyce Steinfeld

Client: Topeka Zoo, Kansas - Judge Kay McFarland Trust

Location: Topeka , KS, United States

Completion date: 2022

Artwork budget: $17,500

Project Team

Artist and Project Lead

Joyce Steinfeld

Joyce Steinfeld Designs

Customer Contact and Project Approval

Howard and Elaine Schwartz

Trustee Kay McFarland Trust

metal fabrication and laser cutting

J & J Fabdrication

metal fabrication

Silvestre Manufacturing

powder paint

SRS Powder Painting

powder paint

Santa Clara Powder Painting


The Topeka Zoo is a world renowned zoo. It is a medium size zoo in Topeka Kansas in the United States. It houses over 250 animals and includes one of the first indoor tropical rain forest in the United States. It is one of the most popular attractions in Topeka, with 250,000 visitors a year. Built as part of the zoo, it recreates of a traditional Japanese Garden with koi ponds, honoring Kansas Chief Justice Kay McFarland. Visitors to the zoo can come to the garden to sit and unwind in its tranquil beauty. In the garden area is a conservation center with exhibits of topography and animals of Kansas. Here is also a public rental space to have events and large parties. This is the place that houses the sculpture “Aspiration, and the Japanese Character Justice” that was created and built to honor Judge Kay McFarland and her life. This project had two parts. First was the construction of the sculpture, then with the passage of time of about one year, a companion sign was conceived of and designed. This companion sign features the Japanese Character, seigi with a crane lifting its head to feed on it. Also included in the sign is a photo collage of pictures from the life of Kay McFarland, a poem written about her and my Artist Statement about the project.


The goal of this project was to bring about a way of telling the story of why this Japanese Garden exists at the Topeka Zoo. Judge Kay McFarland passed away without leaving any heirs to inherit her estate. A trust was set up and the funds from the trust paid for the design and construction of the Japanese Garden at the Topeka Zoo. To honor and educate the visitors to the Garden about Judge Kay McFarland’s life and contribution’s to society, the sculpture and the companion sign accomplish this in an interesting and artistically esthetic way.


Joyce worked together with Elaine and Howard Schwartz who are the trustee’s of the estate of Kay McFarland. Joyce was in Los Gatos, California and Elaine and Howard were in Topeka, Kansas. The project started with deciding on the location and size of the sculpture. The sculpture was to be 6 feet tall. Howard, who is 6 feet tall, stood at the location that the sculpture was to be located and a picture was taken with him as a point of reference for size. All the drawings of what the sculpture would look like in this space were scaled and inserted into this photo, so we could accurately predict what it would look like when it was finished.

The sculpture is fabricated steel. The parts to make the sculpture were laser cut from steel and welded together. The piece was then powder painted, crated and shipped to the Topeka Zoo, were it was placed in the building at Kay’s Garden.

After about a year, it was decided to build the companion sign to the sculpture. A model of the sign was constructed from card board, photographed and scaled to a size that would work with the main sculpture that it would sit next to. The sign was constructed so it would bolt together and could be shipped flat in a crate. There were pictures and instructions provided to properly assemble the companion sign.

Additional Information

This Artist Statement is a shortened version “Aspiration, and the Japanese Character Justice Sculpture” combines two of my interests The This abstract shape is called “Aspirations” and is shown in my art book “Sign Posts Among the Living Shapes”. The words under this sculpture say, “My Aspirations stood like signposts in the desert”. Judge Kay McFarland’s aspirations made her the first woman to graduate from her law school, first woman elected to a judgeship in Shawnee County, first woman on the Kansas Supreme Court. Judge Kay McFarland continually broke the glass ceilings limiting women from participating in these professions and opened the path for other younger women to follow. The Cube has images that represents my interest in what I call “Language Art” I visually interpret words in my artistic style. The Japanese word for Justice, seigi is a casual use of the word justice, not used in courts. Used in an idealistic sense, in statements about realizing justice. This represented her softer side, which included riding and showing world champion horses and nature. I have made the Japanese word seigi into a plant or flower with a stem and each face of the cube shows it in a landscape or being approached by a bird.