New Place Maker for the Lehigh Valley

I just saw the announcement of the artist selected for the Fire Sculpture at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, PA. Elena Colombo’s work will be a beacon for public art, as much as it will be a place maker for the site. As Jeff Parks said in his statements today, “Think of Prometheus in front of the Rockefeller Center in NYC, or the Fountains of Rome.” I thought that perspective was a great way to think forward of how we may be reflecting on the piece five years from now.

Here’s some concept pictures of the announcement today:

Colomba 1

Colomba 2

I was thinking about stories I heard of the Calatrava being built in Milwaukee, WI. People would see large parts of the structure being shipped along Interstate 94 through Chicago. It was part of the excitement and buzz around the “Art Lives Here” campaign of their city. This piece has now become an icon for art in Milwaukee.

Public art has a way to transform the identity of a space. But what we have coming to Bethlehem is not only a chance for citizens to embrace public art again (we have quite a lot of it, proud to say). Lehigh University has a chance to see the PROCESS of how this piece is built, installed and lit. From foundations to the champagne, we can all be students of the creative process that goes into a work like this. While its design is elegantly simple, there is no such simple task in making it happen.

Other news sources will talk about how the National Endowment for the Arts was a big part of today’s announcement, as will more talk about Steelstacks. All important topics of the day.

My mind however, is thinking about something else. I’m delighted that Ms. Colombo is willing to have local artists work with her team and build the piece HERE in town. I’ve even offered to document the process – so I hope to gather some students who are committed to it as well.

Now let me step on my pulpit. If we truly embrace the arts in our community, we need to understand the process of making it. Let it be known that ideas, innovation and determination are major ingredients to creativity. But in order for a big vision like this to happen, there are LOTS of stories to know, lots of perspectives to consider in not only design, but building, installing and understanding what goes into all of them. And I hope we find them, and tell them. It’s my job to think about what will engage people in the art. This is an excellent opportunity to engage not only in the art; but to witness how it got here.

Thank you for that indulgence. This piece will be lit. That’s right – it will be ON FIRE. Now I must tell you (just between you and me) – I’m hoping the artist makes adjustments for the inevitable balloon that will float into the flame unit. I’d hate to see burning rubber fall on unsuspecting kids. Yes, that’s how this mother-mind works.

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