MAG Officially Opens Centennial Sculpture Park

May 22, 2013

The Memorial Art Gallery cut the ribbon on its Centennial Sculpture Park Wednesday.

Four world-renowned artists created anchoring pieces for the sculpture garden. Albert Paley, Wendell Castle, Jackie Ferrara and Tom Otterness each attended dedication ceremony where they had an opportunity to explain their work.

"The sculpture’s called the Soliloquy,” says world-renowned artist Albert Paley. “It will be 25 feet tall. It will be stainless steel and also with color. So when people come off of University [Avenue], they'll see the sculpture and it will create that transition into the area."

Paley says his piece will be a landmark for the Goodman Street entrance to the MAG once it’s installed sometime in August.

Wendell Castle crafted an outdoor living room with 900 pound steel chairs, a table and a nearly 16 foot lamp that lights up the whole exhibit at night. He calls it the Unicorn Family.

“The reason for the unicorn is that if we didn't do any of this [unicorn horn] they [the chairs] would be kind of short,” Castle says. “I really wanted to give some things some height. I thought that made it sort of more important."

Castle says he enjoys that his exhibit sits close to University Avenue, so motorists can see it as they drive by.

"An interactive site where you have superb public sculptures by major American artists,” says the director of the MAG, Grant Holcomb, says the sculpture park is what he envisioned for that neighborhood. “This is unique. It is a wonderful urban, culture park."

Jackie Ferrara created multiple paved pathways called Marking Crossways on the MAG's circle driveway, a Path of Colors - that connects the park gateway at Goodman Street and University Avenue to the Gallery’s main entrance - and a number of 2 feet square patterns that are scattered throughout the grounds.

"Some of them are in Morse code," Ferrara says about the walkway design at the entrance of the museum. "One says University of Rochester and the other Memorial Art Gallery."

Ferrara says she wanted to add content to her work. At the mouth of the sculpture plaza are two large limestone statues title the Creation Myth. It’s the reversal of the classical Pygmalion fable.

"Where the guy carves a woman out of stone and then kisses her and she comes to life. This is the gale carving the guy out of stone," Tom Otterness says, who says he wanted to create a transition between the arts neighborhood and the museum. "I thought a sculptors studio where the work in the museum is being made. So it's a half way step to the museum inside.

Tom Otterness's Creation Myth piece at the corner of N. Goodman Street and University Avenue.
Credit Carlet Cleare / WXXI News

Otterness also has more than a dozen small bronze sculptures sprinkled throughout his exhibition. Two of the pieces represent historical women's rights champions Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

During the ceremony, the MAG presented Ferrara and Otterness with a gift made by local artist Scott Sober for their participation in the Centennial Sculpture Park.  Castle and Paley received the 2013 George Eastman Medal from U of R president Joel Seligman. It's an award recognizing individuals whose achievements and service represents the epitome of the University of Rochester model.

The sculpture garden also showcases the work by other noted artists from the MAG’s collection.

The construction of the park coincided with the latest phase of ARTWalk, a public initiative to transform the Neighborhood of the Arts into an interactive outdoor museum. The project received more than $25 million in federal money, including a $250,000 grant through the National Endowment for the Arts.