Railroad Bridge Public Art – Get Your Opinion In

The Northampton Arts Council seeks your opinion on new art to replace the aging mural on the Route 9 railroad bridge:


Railroad Bridge Public Art Update

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 three groups or individuals expressed their interest in funding a replacement. 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.

The Northampton Arts Council recognizes the challenges of this space, but also notes its importance to our city. We hope to encourage creativity with a level eye toward how the art will look in the future.

Only five finalists were selected from the 16 entries received.

David Gengler, Mary Kasper, Lisa Leary, Ali Osborn and Jena Sujat joined Jamie Haskins from Chartpak, Inc and Bob Reckman, former Ward 3 city councilor who has been with the project from the beginning, to review the proposals. A process for the community to view the finalist proposals is currenty being discussed, and proposals will be available on this website. The final selection, of course, remains with the review committee.

The Committee requested more detailed plans from Peggy Grose; Ben Westbrook & Matt Lorenz, J. Seth Hoffman, Penn Ruderman and Meera Deean; Tim Fisher and Salmon Studios and the works will be on display on the second floor of City Hall from April 7-April 16, 2010.   

City Hall will remain open until 6PM on Friday April 9, 2010 for Arts Night Out and residents are encouraged to stop in to see the works. City Hall is open M-F from 8:30-4:30PM. The proposals will remain up until Friday April 16, 2010.

David Kutcher who is an Arts Council Board member and led the Steering Committee that designed the Request for Proposal is also posting the details to northamptonartscouncil.org. It is clear that many people want to help shape the future of public art in the city, and the intention of this physical display of posters and models, along with the web based images is to present the final, full proposals to the community for comment.

The Northampton Arts Council recognizes the talent of the 16 artists that submitted work and is grateful to the volunteer selection committee for pooling their time and talent to consider the proposals. We also hope that this project will inspire more public art in our community, and that is in part, why we are so committed to sharing the process, and learning from artists, business members, students, seasoned community members and those new to the area. This is a good time to make art in Northampton.

Peggy Grose, an artist from Ashfield, Massachusetts proposes “The Heart of Northampton”, a multi-media installation consisting of representational depictions of the people that define the quintessential nature of the city by the very act of dwelling in and inhabiting the vibrant downtown area for which the city is most well-known by. “All of the inherent mass movement and it’s juxtaposed stillness and solitary nature will be distilled in a pictorial “snapshot” of the life and times (i.e. “The Heart”) of our city in a vision transcending the “pedestrian” nature of the subject matter and elevating it to a artistic distillation of the city’s everyday reality.”

Ben Westbrook and Matt Lorenz intend the construction of an emblematic phoenix for the railroad bridge in Northampton. This bird will be made of fabricated steel and powder-coated for durability and color. The story of the mythological Phoenix started in Egypt, a place where rebirth has long played a significant role in defining the culture. “We find strong correlations between this hopeful and magical story, and our current state of affairs, both locally and globally. We take inspiration from ideas of rebirth and renewal as we move forward into the 21st century.”



J. Seth Hoffman, Penn Ruderman and Meera Deean suggest screening the width of the railroad bridge with a rigid translucent sculpture, depicting a realistic draped curtain. “It will soften views of the tops of downtown buildings, heightening a sense of expectation and discovery. It will subtly reveal the heavy steel infrastructure beneath it. It will capture daylight, and glow on sunny days, an arresting image that will cause one to pause before completing the passage into downtown.”



Tim Fisher is a Bridge Street School Parent and School Committee Board Member for Ward 3. He worked with Jackie Coe, a Bridge Street School art teacher. “Our project consists of the letters of the word “Welcome” fixed across the length of the railroad bridge. The shape of each letter and the visual art work painted on it will be designed by the fifth grade class at Bridge Street School.



Sam Ostroff and Salmon Studios propose “Essence of Northampton Captured in Metal”. The proposed installation will be a forced perspective metal collage of the iconic downtown skyline that lies just beyond the underpass. Sculpted steel and stainless steel layers of pedestrians in crosswalks, bicyclists, trees and even hot air balloons will fill the spaces between the background layer of buildings, creating a vivid collage of silhouettes and shapes.



Tentative timeline:

March 31, 2010            Finalists’ submissions of final proposals due

April, 2010                   Community feedback due

May, 2010                    Committee announces project selection

May 31, 2010               Technical and Legal complete approval

June 1, 2010                Begin construction

August 1, 2010             Begin installation

See also:

Google Street View of Bridge Street Showing Dream Mural
[condition of mural may have deteriorated since this picture was taken]

View Larger Map

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