Thursday, September 8, 2022

The 250-pound Realization

It all started with this post from Ellicott City Patch:

A 250-pound sculpture was installed this summer outside the
Howard County Education Department building (Ellicott City Patch)

Two thoughts: ooh! ARTsites! I love that program. Then: why does it matter how much it weighs? Surely there’s something else the writer could have showcased. These aren’t prize pumpkins we’re looking at here.

ARTsites is an initiative of the Howard County Arts Council which places sculptures around the county each year. I have grown quite fond of seeing these new structures spring up annually. The concept is to “take art out of galleries and place it in public spaces.” I like it. 

I believe that the original intent was for these pieces to remain in place for a year. Some - - perhaps due to their popularity? - - have remained. The eggplant on Main Street in Old Ellicott City, for example. Or those adorable metalwork creatures at the Mall. The Pleiades at Clarksville Commons. 

I can’t explain why I’m so drawn to these little pops of art in the community. They make me smile. They make me think. They spark my imagination.

Here are this year’s ARTsites:

My original intent for this blog post was to connect each work with its location and challenge myself (and my readers) to visit each one. So, I began to make a list:

Title: Waiting on a Train of Thought

Artist: Charlie Brouwer

Location: Gary J. Arthur Community Center

Title: Vasanzio IV ‘A Favor’

Artist: Steven Buduo

Location: North Laurel Community Center & Park

Title: Bad Apple

Artist: Paul Daniel

Location: Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods

Title: Helix

Artist: Jeffrey Chyatte

Location: Howard County Government, George Howard Building

Title: Labyrinth

Artist: Jeffrey Chyatte

Location: Howard County General Hospital

Title: Bird Forms

Artist: Bobby Donovan

Location: James & Anne Robinson Nature Center

Title: Notions of Transparency

Artist: Bobby Donovan

Location: Corporate Office Properties Trust

Title: BLM

Artists: Jack Howard-Potter

Location: Howard Community College

Title: Angular Separation

Artist: Hanna Jubran

Location: Howard County Public School System Administration Building

Title: Barking at the Moon

Artist: Richard Pitts

Location: Columbia Association, Community Operations Center

Title: Solar Hope

Artist: Paul Steinkoenig

Location: Clarksville Commons

Title: Tilt

Artist: Bill Wood

Location: Columbia Association, Slayton House

Something hit me as I worked. I started digging around to look at information on the artists. (The following photos do not belong to me. They come from artists’ websites and newspaper articles about arts events.) Take a look.

Let me reiterate. I love the ARTsites initiative. I like this year’s crop of sculptures. But I am gobsmacked that the Howard County Arts Council has somehow curated a collection created solely by men. White men, to be precise. Women sculptors and Black sculptors do exist. (I checked on Google.) 

I wish this collection were more representative of a diverse and inclusive world and most especially of our own community. I doubt that most people who see these pieces up close or as they drive by will even consider this. But it still matters. Representation matters. 

The art world is often seen as a playground of white, well-to-do art patrons and critics. I want to believe that the Howard County Arts Council created ARTsites as a way to remove barriers to visual arts experiences. The incorporation of art into public spaces and everyday life is a concrete affirmation that art is for everyone.

It certainly should be. 

Out at the Central Office of the Howard County Schools, where one of these sculptures is placed, they often host displays of student art. Within our schools are many aspiring artists from many backgrounds. Some are probably future sculptors. I wonder who will take a chance on them once they are grown?

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