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Over the past several decades, the space in front of Syracuse City Hall has been very limited. The asphalt built on two narrow pavements is a flat section marked with a red “No Parking” sign.
But this place is not always like this. In the past, the area leading to the stairs in front of the city hall was a public square, a spacious place where city dwellers congregate. A new project supported by a $25,000 grant and wanted by Syracuse’s public art leaders.
It all starts with a little paint.
“Good public art and vibrant public art galleries are a true reflection of the community and what it values,” said Kate Owerter, public art curator for Syracuse. “We are a different city. We are a hospitable city. All these things can be combined in this project.
In early October, Mayor Ben Walsh announced that the Bloomberg Trusts had donated $25,000 to Syracuse. The grant is part of the company’s Asphalt Art Initiative, which provides financial and technical support to cities to redesign and recreate public spaces through art.
Adapt CNY, a local nonprofit organization, will oversee the use of the grant in collaboration with the Syracuse Public Arts Authority and the Department of Public Works, and with technical support from Bloomberg Charities.
According to those familiar with the project, drawing the strip in front of City Hall is the first step in a larger project: transforming it into a place where residents gather, celebrate and demonstrate. The project seeks to add color and liveliness to the space, but to do so in a way that reflects the character and culture of Syracuse.
“We are looking for murals that reflect our social identity, that speak of diversity, and that give a vibrant feel to this place in front of City Hall,” an introduction said. “It is a very positive step to remind the public that this is an area for public meetings, citizen participation, protests, celebrations, etc.”
Prior to the 1970s, when Owerter claimed that the city had added parking in front of City Hall, the site was an elevated pedestrian plaza flanked by two large flower beds. Even without the plaza, city dwellers continue to use the area Demonstrations and public meetings.
We want to have a place where people can be proud, but that is more vibrant, bright and engaging than it is now.
Eric Ennis, President of Adapt CNY
Michael John Heckerty, President of SPAC, said the project aims to provide a safe place for pedestrians and protesters to gather and move freely. To separate the plaza from the street, include body markers such as planters.
“We want a place where people can be proud, but it’s more vibrant, bright and inviting than it is now,” said Eric Ennis, president of Adapt CNY.
Innes said the city is still “off” the project schedule, but expects major improvements in early 2022. According to Owerter, this includes sending a public invitation to artists to submit their ideas.
Oerter said that Adapt CNY and SPAC will not only seek bids from experienced wall artists. Instead, decision makers want to focus on choosing the best idea and use the advantages of Bloomberg to help the selected artist measure their design.
“It really allows emerging artists to get involved and put their ideas into the ring,” he said.
Hogardy said the committee wanted the public to be involved in the process beyond selecting a public artist.
“We’re going to have people who are actually involved in planting the asphalt grass,” Hogerty said. “We want to create a real empowering feeling within the community to take a leadership role in this particular scholarship…and create something special.”
Ennis, Overture and Heckerty agreed that after the project was completed, plans would continue to rediscover the space in front of City Hall.
In the future, it may include not only asphalt art, but also outdoor furniture and landscaping, just like the plaza that stood in place decades ago, more representative of Syracuse today.
“Anyone who comes into town to do any kind of business has to go through this amazing art space where everyone is involved,” Heckerty said.
Posted on October 24, 2021 at 11:34 pm
Contact Chris: [email protected]