In a post-State of the City interview last month and a public presentation before the Redevelopment Agency last week, Mayor James Kennedy talked about murals and sculptures scattered around the downtown loop as part of an overall plan focusing on the arts. He described the visual arts piece as a complement to performing arts initiatives such as the amphitheater and black box theater planned for Hamilton Street and gallery space in the YMCA and Elizabethtown Gas building. The “eye candy,” as the mayor describes it, is expected by mid-summer.
As examples, Kennedy noted the walkway connecting Main Street and the parking lot behind River Place as an ideal spot for a mural or a sculpture, in addition to some areas connecting Hotel Indigo to the Lewis Street parking deck. “The whole arts picture has been growing in many pieces that ultimately is coming together now,” he said.
A committee will determine about two dozen quirky spots downtown for sculptures, which then would be cataloged into a booklet for a sort of sculpture garden. The city would be responsible for the footings but artists would cover the cost of their own sculptures. “The advantage to artists is not that they’re paying for their own sculpture but the advantage is that it gives them exposure and exhibition space,” Kennedy said.
Another program will copy what was done in Ithaca, N.Y., where The Sagan Planet Walk at Sciencenter pays homage to the Rahway native and noted Cornell astronomer. A scale model of the solar system would station planets at specific locations between City Hall and the Arts Guild. The program also would incorporate the high school physics program, the mayor said, while the educational piece would include brass descriptions of the technical data about the size and composition of planets. The sculptures would be to scale so some might be as small as a tennis ball while others might be much larger.
“The neat thing is that it brings a sense of community, it’s a something-to-do kind of thing,” Kennedy said, adding that these initiatives aim to create a pleasant atmosphere but also catch the attention of passersby.
A third aspect of the visual arts piece is a window treatment program like one that was done for the Carriage City Plaza sales office. People looking into the windows can see the image or art while those on the inside can clearly see outside. Rather than have paper covering up vacant storefronts, Kennedy said the city also is trying to encourage empty stores to allow the space for use by artists until they are leased.