Dancing Arches - Public art for the public

Who doesn’t love to dance?  The contemporary American poet, William Stafford, tells us that children dance before “they learn there is anything that isn’t music.” And legend has it that the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, learned to dance at seventy, because he felt an essential part of him had been neglected.  From our children to our seniors, we all find the shape of spirit and discovery in the art of dance.  

Randy Walker’s Dancing Arches, a planned public art sculpture at the newly renovated Rodney Park-- scheduled for installation in May 2014-- captures that shape of spirit and discovery with a burst of color and form.  The sculpture plan consists of seventeen steel pipes bent at various lengths to create a maze of dancing metal archways.  The archways serve as an entrance to the Southwest corner of the park.  The multi-length arches also offer a varietal splash of unique colors, ranging from Candy Apple Red to Mediterranean Blue.  Viewed at different angles from inside or outside the park, the arches will create a frame and snapshot of neighborhood climate and activity.  And at night, the tubular arches will be illuminated from a foot light, creating a soft, glowing beacon of color.

Mr. Walker chose the concept of dancing arches as an invitation to enter and move through a world of new possibilities.  He notes that archways represent a link with Lancaster’s history and urban fabric. The archway motif can be viewed at the grand brick façade marking the entrance to our historic and nationally acclaimed Central Market.  A string of archways are also present between the narrow passageways of the row homes at the nearby Coral Street.  And, of course, the classic wooden arches from Lancaster’s Conestoga wagons of the 1700s remain a symbol of elegance, originality, and craftsmanship.  In the near future, and as part of an educational outreach program, the artist plans to meet with children at the Lancaster Rec Center to further explain the concepts influencing the sculpture.

Mr. Walker’s new sculpture, along with recent renovations, will celebrate Rodney Park’s renewed vitality.  This half acre park was once covered in asphalt and served as a parking lot for the park’s Senior Center.  A nearby lot and adjacent street parking have been added for the many visitors to the activities at the Senior Center, thereby allowing renovations to replace the asphalt with large grass areas and permeable walkways and play areas.  These changes will reduce stormwater runoff, which is in line with the City’s Green Infrastructure Plan.  An outdated pool has been replaced with a colorful water spray pool—located directly behind the Dancing Arches sculpture.  The spray pool and new play area were a big hit with the kids last summer.  Smiles and laughter everywhere.

The process for selecting Dances Arches began when sixty-seven artists sent qualification proposals to a five-member project planning committee.  The committee was selected by the Public Art Advisory Board.  The committee narrowed the artists’ proposals down to two.  From there, a neighborhood meeting was held to showcase the two proposals. Then the proposals were posted on social media for the public to further comment on their preference.  Randy Walker’s Dancing Arches was then selected for its public support, artistic quality, vision and durability.

Funding the project again involved public support.  The City, via the taxpayers, posted half of the funding ($25,000) from prior Capital bonds.  The rest of the costs were covered by donors who went to the online Kickstarter site to pledge their support.  At first, raising the necessary funds from Kickstarter seemed unrealistic, but as the deadline approach, public donors rallied.  Through an overwhelming and heartwarming show of support, the fundraising effort actually raised several thousand dollars more than the required sum.  This extra sum will lighten the total needed from municipal bonds.

The final step in the process is the installation of the sculpture.  Again, that is set for this May.  I don’t know about you, but after a long and recurring winter, won’t it be refreshing to spend a huge chunk of time outdoors this Spring? Exploring the new season. A long walk.  A leisure drive.  And if you’re a child, a teen, an adult, or a senior, and you’re in the mood for exploration, why not stop by Lancaster’s Rodney Park to check out Randy Walker’s Dancing Arches.  It’s public art selected by the public, paid for by the public, and to be enjoyed by the public.  Public art for the public.  Anyone wanna dance?

By Tim Roschel, Public Art Advisory Board