Monday, March 20, 2006

brainstorming for public art projects in the downtown

In my opinion, we have too little public space devoted to public art throughout the city of youngstown. I remember as a kid being able to run around the life-sized statues on Federal Street of the workers throwing their shovels into the blast furnace. Now that George Segal's piece is near the steel museum, surrounded by a lawn, it just seems so removed from interacting with the public. But maybe that's where the public wants it . . . moving images of the past to the periphery.

I have some concepts for public art in the city. As more people add comments to this blog, I will give more ideas. So if you the public somehow wander onto this site, please post your thoughts and suggestions.

idea one: recreate in bronze the "snap the whip" image from Windslow Homer's painting which is hanging in the Butler. The models of the casting would come from children in the area, generating interest for the project. But each of the seven or eight kids playing the game would be from a different generation. The lead boy would mimic the original painting, clasping hands with someone from the early 20th century. Included in the mix would be a kid with a buzzcut, a girl with an afro, and a modern kid with an ipod in his back pocket. Some children would have hands clenched to others from a different generation, and others would be left reaching in the air.

But the collection of statues would be approachable, so in 20 years, children (whatever they look like) will be able to grab the shiny metal hands of the statue I am proposing. We can put in a public place, where it can be touched by children whenever they go past it.

idea two: we need statues signifying the historical legacy of our area's intellectuals in addition to its great coaches and athletes. I propose installing a life-sized image of John H. Clarke, who was an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 20th century. He was a part-owner of the Youngstown Vindicator and past president of the Youngstown Library Board of Trustees, where he worked to greatly enhance the collection of the library system. Clarke once stated the following:

"I have lived a long, very busy, and not uneventful life, and as I look back on its activities, other than professional, it seems to me that the most useful, certainly the most satisfying, part of it was striving as I did as a young man to obtain a public library for the city in which I lived, and to carry forward its good work when it was once secured."

idea three: Also spending a good portion of their lives in Youngstown were the Warner Brothers, most of whom emmigrated from Krasnosielc, Poland to Youngstown when they were children. One of the four brothers, Sam, became interested in film after seeing a movie by Thomas Edison at nearby Cedar Point amusement park where he was an employee.

What about some sort of recreation of an early scene in film history with the Warner Brothers? The sculpture could show the four brothers, at their various ages when they lived in Youngstown, redding up their equipment for a shot. One or two of the brothers can be behind the camera, taking a picture of the other two brothers. If these sculptures are life-sized, people can walk right next to the statues and pretend to pose for a photo with the Warner Brothers.


V. Shay said...

Maybe people are afraid that if they put up public art, people will vandalize it with graffiti.

Anonymous said...

I think murals are a wonderufl addition to a city and their public spaces. Check out Philadelphia and all the murals they have there. It really makes a huge improvement in the cityscape and is easy enough to do. Plus it gives young artists a chance to show their wares on a grand scale.

Anonymous said...

Art idea: leave it to the artists.

Also, I'd rather Y-town became a home for new art than art that celebrated the past. I think that's part of the problem. We're often stuck thinking of what was rather than what could be.

Anonymous said...

Though I would agree that Youngstown needs to look to the Future, we cannot forget our past. It is important to remember all the wonderful people and things that have come out of Youngstown. I think these ideas are good and need to be proposed on some formal level.

Anonymous said...

The "idea one" proposing a large bronze statue of "snap the whip" (in a contemporary context) is one of the most innovative ideas I've ever heard for a potential public art piece in Youngstown. You should really speak with the Butler-Wick Corp., the Wick Neighbors, and City Arts to seek funding to move forward with this work. Are you a sculptor yourself, or just a visionary?

I thought I had some good ideas for urban public art projects in Youngstown, but this is so fresh and progressive--yet it ties in an iconic piece of artwork from our past.

Where do you think the best location would be? I could see it across from Cedar's, sitting just southeast of the Steel Museum at N. Hazel and West Commerce Street(s). I think it would also look especially good across from the new DeYor Center and Powers at S. Chestnut St. (Vindy Sq.) and West Federal. It would bend to the shape of the sidewalk at that corner prefectly, creating a frame for the block.

The second idea that struck me as exciting was written by whoever mentioned Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love is a model for all gritty American cities in the Northeast. What they have done there with graffiti tours, murals, and junk art is inspirational. We need to begin playing on our identity, and the identity of the greater region, artistically. Murals, statues, graffiti, and gardens are fantastic ways to perk up a place with lots of flavour and room to work...a place like Youngstown.

Virginia, who are "people" and "they"? WE should be building, designing, and sublimating OUR city without fear of negative possibilities. Per capita crime rates, fear, suburban sprawl, and the stigmatization of the city have held us down for almost 30 years. It is time to progress, and it is OUR responsibility to be pro-active and support our city regardless of the way the mainstream flows.

Janko said...

I am neither a sculptor nor visionary by trade, but dabble in a bit of each.

If you (or anyone else) out there would like to work together and move forward on a project like this, please leave me a comment with your name and email address.

All comments are sent to my inbox first before they are posted, and I will not publish any personal information if you leave a comment with your contact info.

Thanks, and I look forward to any personal connections which may develop from this blog!

Anonymous said...


As we speak, I have recently completed a draft and I am ready to propose a piece of public art that is created by the citizen base of all ages and celebrates both the history and the future of the City

I'll be back to you regarding developmetns in this matter.

Anonymous said...

Checking back in on the creation of a public art piece developed by the people of Youngstown

We have cleared the first hurdle and have had a prominant civic group's board agree to become th administrator of the project....the vote was an overwhelming "aye"

We need to secure ownership to a major artifact which exists in the Downtown which is doomed but will become the centerpiece for the ....I'll be meeting with City Officials by Nov 1 on this matter

This is a two year project at best so please be patient and not critcal....periods of apparant inactivity mean little...there is much to organize....we hope to go public by January 2007 with the concept