Public art represents voice, spirit, culture of communities (Editorial)

Public art brings momentum and vitality to a community.

From murals on buildings to seasonal ice sculptures, from to war memorials to displays of art in parks and other open spaces, public art can help define a community as one which cares not only about its citizenry but also the visitors who come and go.

Think about the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Quadrangle and what it means to the countless visitors young and old alike who admire the artwork, but who also play among its pieces and think about the value of reading and literacy.

Think about El Corazon de Holyoke, or the Heart of Holyoke, which features artwork created by artists to symbolize Puerto Rican and Latinx culture. Colorful banners, large-scale artworks on the side of buildings, murals, lighting, festivals and food trucks, Heart of Holyoke aims to create spaces that reflect the neighborhoods surrounding Main Street in the Paper City.

Springfield recently hosted Fresh Paint Springfield, an effort that created five murals on the exterior walls of downtown buildings and five murals on buildings in the Mason Square neighborhood. And, last week, an announcement was made of plans for eight artists to create displays for the newly renovated Pynchon Plaza. This will bring the area one step closer to being a truly remarkable park in a key part of the downtown.

Originally part of the U.S. Bicentennial project in the 1970s, Pynchon Plaza cost around $700,000 to build and featured a concrete courtyard, abstract sculpture, a reflecting pool and an elevator that linked Chestnut and Dwight streets.

Over the years the park fell into decay. After a $4 million renovation, the park now brings a fresh sense of pride to the neighborhood.

During Pynchon Plaza’s reopening in November, Patrick Sullivan, the city’s director of parks and facilities, said, “When I started 35 years ago, the park was closed more than it was open. The plaza is now a safe and attractive connection for our museums with the metro area.”

Funding for the eight art installations comes from a combination of public and private monies which includes a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Program Grant and a federal Community Development Block Grant to the city. Part of the art package will include a “Sound Sculpture.”

The combination of a refreshed plaza and new works of art will create a museum-like effect that will offer an elegant complement to the Springfield Museums which is just one street away. Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums said, “Pynchon Park will become more than just an easy way to walk from downtown to the Springfield Museums, the Central Library, and the Armory. It will become a community space for solace, conversation, programming, and play surrounded by intriguing art.”

We look forward to the art installation and its impact on the neighborhood and surrounding Springfield attractions.

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