The Ann Arbor public art commission has recommended approval of “Arbor Winds” artwork for East Stadium bridges, designed by Massachusetts artist Catherine Widgery. The action came at AAPAC’s April 23, 2014 meeting. The recommendation will be forwarded to the city council for consideration. [.pdf of proposal]
In early August of 2013, Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. was recommended as the artist for this project. She was picked by a selection panel from four finalists who had submitted proposals for the project, which has a $400,000 total budget. [.pdf of Widgery's original proposal]
The selection panel provided feedback to Widgery and asked that she revise her proposal before it was presented to AAPAC and then later to the city council for approval. Members of the panel were Wiltrud Simbuerger, Bob Miller, Nancy Leff, David Huntoon and Joss Kiely. [.pdf of panel feedback]
Over the past few weeks, AAPAC chair Bob Miller and vice chair John Kotarski have been presenting her revised proposed to several local public entities, including the city’s park advisory commission, planning commission and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. A public forum to get additional feedback also was held on April 21 at the downtown library. [More details on the presentation by Kotarski and Miller are included in The Chronicle’s report of the Ann Arbor planning commission’s April 1, 2014 meeting.]
Widgery’s new design for the bridge features elevated, stand-alone louvered glass columns that are etched with images of trees. The same type of louvered glass panels are also used under the bridge along South State, affixed to the wall of the underpass. The panels will be lit from below, so that the etchings stand out at night. The glass is tempered and laminated for strength.
The artwork is meant to evoke the strength and fragility of this community. From the artist’s statement:
As one drives around Ann Arbor, the gracious stands of trees stand out as a clear expression of the town’s identity so trees have symbolized this arbor town from the beginning.
On a deeper level, the trees as portrayed in the artwork Arbor Winds are a metaphor for our own paradoxical fragility and strength in the context of our life cycles. We speak of having “deep roots” or of “branching out” or of how someone is “blooming”. After a long winter, the return to life of spring is expressed above all through the return of leaves to trees. We all feel the sense of being reborn in the spring with the blossoms and leaves and, in the autumn, the somewhat wistful sadness as the leaves reach their glory of color and then fall.
Arbor Winds evokes not just trees but wind and light as expressions of the energy that surrounds us. In each panel we see the ghostly afterimage as if the wind has blown the tree; we see both moments in time simultaneously. These images etched in glass are like those etched in our memories. We walk through a forest and it is our mental “snapshots” of the branches against the sky or the texture of the thick trunk, or the dense layers of the many trunks silhouetted against the forest underbrush that remain in our memories. Indeed each of these etched images is more the memory of moments rather than a physical reality: a subtle expression of our own ephemeral existence and the light traces we leave behind.
The recommendation will be placed on the council’s agenda for its first meeting in June. If approved, the art would likely be installed sometime in 2015.
This brief was filed from the basement of city hall, 301 E. Huron, where AAPAC holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow.