Click HERE to read this article in Tompkins County Life.
Art in the Heart of the City has returned to Downtown Ithaca for its fourteenth year. This annual outdoor art exhibition, running from June to November, brings the creativity of local and international artists to Ithaca’s walkable urban core.
Says Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) Executive Director Gary Ferguson, “Art in the Heart is patterned after a very successful outdoor sculpture program launched many years ago in downtown Grand Junction, Colorado. It seeks to provide the community with a diverse collection of public art that rotates every year. It has been an excellent way to showcase artistic talent while enhancing and beautifying our downtown environment.”
Kris Lewis, the DIA’s Operations Manager, has coordinated Art in the Heart for the last four years. She explains that this year’s Art in the Heart, an eclectic collection of eleven works by six artists, was a challenging but rewarding show to organize. “Because of the construction work on the Ithaca Commons, the pieces had to be sited elsewhere. Much of the city’s permanent art collection was relocated along South Cayuga Street, so we decided that the temporary pieces should go there as well. This was a very different approach from previous years, but what we see now is the new Cayuga Street Art Corridor really starting to take shape.”
First-time exhibitor Amy Lewis’s “agrisculptures” – three-dimensional works made out of old farm equipment – now grace the pavement outside Avanti! at 121 South Cayuga Street. Says Lewis, who resides in Cornwall, New York, “I fell in love with Ithaca at the age of four. It’s a beautiful city, full of natural and human-made wonders that inspire me to no end. The moment I learned of Art in the Heart, I knew it would be a perfect opportunity for me to say ‘Thank you, Ithaca!’ – a city that truly believes in the critical role of public art.”
Ryan McGuire’s whimsical Bananapede resides in front of the State Theatre Box Office near the corner of South Cayuga and West State Streets. The Ithaca-based multi-media artist explains, “I applied to the Art in the Heart program because I’ve always admired the sculptures downtown and I thought it was time to add some of my bright pop art to the mix. It’s exciting to be able to engage such a large number of people and to put a smile on their faces. As soon as people realize they live in a community that supports art, they start creating.”
Other pieces in this year’s exhibition are two sculptures by Glenn Zweygardt in front of the Tompkins County Public Library and on the side of Evolution; murals by Marybeth Ihnken on the southwest outside corner of the Library; three sculptures by Bob Turan in front of SHAJ, Mystic Water, and Handwork; and a mural by Will Schlough soon to be painted behind Center Ithaca above the Green Garage stairwell.
Please visit http://www.downtownithaca.com for more information.
The week of July 1, 2013 marks the completion of Phase One of the Ithaca Commons rebuild project. This phase, involving the removal of above-ground structures on the pedestrian mall, began in April and will now end about 10 days ahead of schedule. This milestone signals the one-third point in this major community undertaking and also means the end of the noisy demolition period of the construction project.
Visitors to the Commons are now able to get a sense of the spacious new design, featuring an open center that allows for uninterrupted sightlines and ample room for foot traffic, greenery, seating, and new pedestrian amenities. Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) Executive Director Gary Ferguson comments, “Scores of people have commented on how open and inviting the Commons space has become. The architecture is now showcased. The whole Commons area feels more inviting. This is a point in the project where the public can experience something new and different.”
Tourists and locals alike have also been captivated by the plywood fencing surrounding the construction site, which was transformed over a period of three weeks into over 300 painted murals in one of the region’s largest public art projects on record. Featuring a diverse range of work by student, amateur, and professional artists from Ithaca and beyond, the mural project is an impressive showcase of the community’s creative energy and resourceful spirit. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance held a formal unveiling on June 21 to recognize all participants and present prizes to a number of contest winners, including Best in Show recipient Joshua McCown, whose piece can be seen outside the Bank of America building on Bank Alley.
Many Commons merchants have reported that interest in downtown’s changing streetscape has translated into ringing registers. Ken Jupiter, owner of 15 Steps, reported, “Going into construction, we prepared for the worst but I am grateful to say that we have just completed our best June in 31 years. The construction crew has done a wonderful job and I’m also very pleased with the Project Team and the DIA’s mitigation plan.” Peter Parkes of Benjamin Peters has also been encouraged by the foot traffic this spring: “People see the Commons as an attraction – it just so happens the attraction right now is a construction site surrounded by wonderful murals!”
There will be a three-week hiatus in July with no construction on the Commons before the start of Phase Two, which will focus on the installation of underground utilities. In preparation, the City of Ithaca has hired a Resident Engineer, Jessica Buckley, who joins Project Manager Michael Kuo and Outreach Coordinator Tammy Baker in the Commons Project Office. Buckley explains, “Phase Two will take us below the surface of the Commons to the intricate network of utilities that provide our everyday services. This is a once-in-a-generation event and it will be a sight to see: excavation of trenches up to ten feet deep, installation of the City’s water main and other essential infrastructure – lots of movement and excitement.”
During this phase, building owners will have the opportunity to replace their water service lines to support automatic sprinkler systems and take advantage of further upgrades in sewer, natural gas, and telecommunications systems. Phase Two is expected to continue into late November, to be followed by a construction furlough to allow for inclement weather and an unimpeded holiday shopping season. Construction of the streetscape is expected to commence in March 2014 with a completion scheduled for late July 2014.
The Commons Project Office, located at 215 The Commons, maintains a website that includes construction updates and contact information at http://www.ithacacommons.info. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance, with offices at 171 The Commons, has also recently launched a blog to highlight a variety of other downtown projects, businesses, and events at http://www.downtownith.com.