APPLETON – If public art is designed to spark conversation in the community, then “The Collective” is a ringing success.
The enameled steel sculpture consists of many faces in the shape of a large head. It was installed in November on public right of way at the west end of the East College Avenue bridge as part of Sculpture Valley’s third season of ACREofART.
Some describe the piece as awesome, beautiful, intriguing and wonderful and say it speaks to Appleton’s diversity.
“I find it delightful,” Appleton resident Jane Oliver told the Municipal Services Committee on Monday. “I find the placement important because it is high traffic; lots of people can see it. I smile every time I drive by it because it’s unexpected. It’s a big head sitting there.”
Others say the sculpture is creepy, grotesque, scary and ugly.
Debra Slagle said that as an Uber and Lyft driver, she takes a lot of out-of-towners past the sculpture en route to hotels.
“I’ve never had a positive comment about that sculpture,” Slagle said. “I had one person who said, ‘Oh my God, is that up just for Halloween? That’s the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen.”https://www.postcrescent.com/”
The Common Council unanimously approved the location of the sculpture on Sept. 18 without debate. After its installation, some nearby residents complained, contending the sculpture isn’t appropriate for the neighborhood.
The criticism prompted Alderman Vered Meltzer and others to ask the Municipal Services Committee to reconsider the location.
The committee listened to nearly 20 people speak for and against the artwork before holding the issue until its Jan. 13 meeting.
Rachel Van Handel drives by the sculpture a couple of times a day. She appreciates the unique and beautiful faces and said the artwork shows other communities that Appleton is full of diversity and culture.
“It’s a great announcement of what we are as a community,” she said.
Nearby resident Lisa Farnum said the sculpture “is a really interesting concept” but was troubled by the placement of modern art in the middle of a historic home district.
“There are so many places in the city of Appleton that this sculpture and its diversity theme could really have an impact,” she said, adding that no one asked nearby residents if they wanted “this big head in their front yard.”
The neighborhood was surprised by the sculpture because neither the city nor Sculpture Valley notified nearby residents that it was coming. “We wanted to have a voice in this, and we had no voice at all,” Laura O’Shea said.
City officials plan to add a notification process for future installations of public art.
Alex Schultz, executive director of Sculpture Valley, a nonprofit arts advocacy group in the Fox Cities, defended “The Collective” and its placement.
“There’s nothing vulgar about it,” he told The Post-Crescent. “There’s nothing about that sculpture that’s not appropriate for a public space.”
ACREofART pieces are chosen from a pool of applications by a jury of artists. Schultz then works to find sponsors and suitable hosts for the art.
“These aren’t just arbitrary droppings of artwork,” Schultz said. “We think about the locations where they’re going to have the most impact, and what they can do to start conversations in the community, which this one has done.”
The third season of ACREofART includes 10 sculptures: five in Appleton, four in Menasha and one in Neenah. They will remain on display for two years, after which they will be available for purchase.
The sculptures are privately sponsored, so they aren’t a burden on taxpayers. “The Collective” is sponsored by the Moore Family in memory of Linda Moore.
The free smartphone app Otocast describes the sculptures. It identifies the title, artist, sponsor and location of each piece and provides a statement by the artist.
Paul Bobrowitz of Colgate, Wisconsin, is the artist who created “The Collective.”
“I’ve long believed that the collective unconscious is a major source of my inspiration and energy and often provides the solution to issues that I’m struggling with,” Bobrowitz said in a recording on the app. “This sculpture is the manifestation of that, comprised of all of the faces that I see as representing past and present supporters of my work.
“I think all good sculpture should be interesting no matter which side you look at it,” Bobrowitz continued. “As you walk around this piece, this one fits the bill nicely.”
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