Press Release: “A new gateway into the City will be the site of a new piece of public art to welcome people to Northampton”

We are pleased to publish the following press release:

Subject: A new gateway into the City will be the site of a new piece of public art to welcome people to Northampton

For Immediate Release October 20, 2009

From: Northampton Arts Council [link], Inc.

A gateway into the City will be the site of a new piece of public art to welcome people to Northampton. In recent years, Bob Reckman, Ward 3 City Councilor and the members of the neighborhood opened discussions about the care and maintenance of the “Dream” mural, installed on the east side of the railroad bridge over Rte 9 funded by the Northampton Arts Council in 1991. It is in poor shape and cannot be repaired. Leland Johnston, the artist who created it, believes it is time for something new in that location. The cost to refurbish the mural was staggering and an article about the condition of the “Dream” mural appeared on September 17 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette [link]. Three groups or individuals expressed their interest in funding a replacement within the next 2 days by contacting Councilor Reckman. The first was a donor who prefers to remain anonymous. The second was Chartpak, Inc., a Leeds-based company that sells a wide range of art supplies and had been looking for a way to contribute to the local arts scene and the City. In addition to money they are happy to contribute any of their products that could be used at no cost. The third group was the newly created Business Improvement District (BID). Reckman, working together with Mayor Clare Higgins, brought the project to the Northampton Arts Council.

Bob Reckman arranged a meeting with the Mayor, Robert Rodak, Vice President & General Manager of Chartpak, Sasha De Marino, Director of Education at Chartpak, Dan Yacuzzo, Executive Director of the Business Improvement District (BID) in Northampton, the Director of the Northampton Arts Council, Bob Cilman, and Diane Porcella, a consultant to the Council. All agreed that it is key that both the neighborhood community and City residents be involved in the selection process. The BID is already working to improve the bridge appearance with power washing, already underway, new lighting and improvements to the railings at the edge of the sidewalk. The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and Pan Am Railways are also working to protect this area for its regional transportation and historic values.

The Northampton Arts Council, with the support of the City, will develop a steering committee to create a plan and process that will prepare the bridge for new art, build a long term maintenance plan, create an application package and review process that will attract artists from Hampshire, Franklin, Hampden and Berkshire counties to this high-visibility project. The steering committee will examine the core needs and how to manage this important opportunity and significant financial contribution. They will establish a jury to choose among the respondents and once the list has been narrowed there will be a chance for the public to see these proposals and let jury members know their responses in person before the jury makes the final selection. The scope and importance of the project demands time and diligence to make a piece of art that reflects Northampton and the request will go out before the year end. The anonymous donor, Chartpak and the BID saw a need and a way to help make a change. This project may become a blueprint for how future public art in Northampton can be conceived and funded. It is bittersweet to remove Johnston’s “Dream” but its removal signals a fresh way of looking at this space, and other spaces around the City. For more info: Bob Cilman, 413-587-1247

Northampton Arts Council, Inc., 240 Main Street, Memorial Hall, Northampton, MA 01060, T 413.587.1269

See also:

De-commissioning the “Dream Mural” on the east side of railroad bridge (9/11/09)