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Local artists Beth Holyoke and Migiwa Orimo (shown sitting along the bike path on the newest tiled bench by Holyoke and local artist Kaethi Seidl) are two of the three winners of the recent Yellow Springs Outdoor Sculpture competition, sponsored by the Yellow Springs Arts Council, the Yellow Springs Center for the Arts Steering Committee and the Community Information Project. The third winner is Olga Ziemska of Cleveland. By the Fall Street Fair, public artwork by all three artists will be on display around the village.

Outdoor sculpture contest winners — Public art to go public in October

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Most art is meant to be viewed by the public, but not all art takes up permanent residence in the public sphere in the way the three pieces that won the village’s first public sculpture contest are about to do. But come Street Fair time in early October, three public spaces in the village will display Beth Holyoke’s three-dimensional yellow mosaic of the word “springs,” Olga Ziemska’s sculpture of the hands of villagers cast in white in the image of a bird in flight, and Migiwa Orimo’s old-style telephone booth that beckons villagers to come inside and create their own experimental artworks.

The Yellow Springs Arts Council, the Yellow Springs Center for the Arts (YSCA) Steering Committee and the Community Information Project (CIP) jointly sponsored the 2009 Yellow Springs Outdoor Sculpture competition. The Arts Council cast a wide call for submissions in the spring, and YSCA Steering Committee director Laura Carlson managed and presented the 13 submissions to a panel of four judges. The CIP provided the funds to award Yellow Springs artist Beth Holyoke and Cleveland artist Olga Ziemska $4,000 each and Yellow Springs artist Migiwa Orimo a $2,000 prize, to produce their concepts over the summer.

For the “springs” piece, Holyoke envisions a 9-foot long by 3-foot tall yellow word on a cement pedestal, perhaps in Bill Duncan Park on Dayton Street near an entry point to the village. The sculpture will be made of ceramic tiles, and it will include glass, plastic or durable objects submitted by villagers to be grouted into the finished product. Holyoke also hopes to embed into the words ceramic reliefs of animals, fruits and vegetables, as well as found objects or ceramic molds of those objects that represent Yellow Springs. Beth’s husband, Andy Holyoke, is also part of the project, as he has agreed to build the armature for the sculpture, which was inspired by the “No Sprawl” 3-D letters that stood so boldly in the field behind Yellow Springs High School several years ago.

Ziemska’s project, titled “Flock of Hands,” is to be a sculpture of white clay hands joined together toward the sky in the image of a dove in flight. In the center of the piece will be a collection of locally reclaimed aspen, birch and/or beech trees that have been felled for other purposes and used for her project. Ziemska hopes to mold the hands from the hands of local residents and fire them at a local kiln, she said. Ziemska also plans to involve local knitters to “embellish the finished sculpture with characteristic Yellow Springs ‘knitting graffiti,’” she said. At its highest point, the piece will stand 18 feet tall, but the size will ultimately depend on the site where it is placed.

The work is meant to “conjure feelings of harmony, peace, freedom and potential” and “to create a sense of connection between human and nature, earth and sky, community and environment,” Ziemska said in an e-mail she sent this week. “‘Flock of Hands’ is a public sculpture that celebrates the spirit of Yellow Springs and reflects the strong sense of community present in this creative town.”

Orimo’s work is a bit more interactive in its creation, and it requires the participation of many other artists and experimenters, which neither she nor the judges thought would be too big of an obstacle in Yellow Springs. The concept is one Orimo has thought about for many years, but never quite knew how to do. But several days before the contest deadline the project came together in the form of a glass telephone booth which will serve as a public “container” for villagers to create their own kind of performance, video, visual, light or audio art, however temporal it may be. The booth will encourage artists to think about three key words: “transmit,” “receive,” and “exchange.” Orimo will curate the collective “piece” for one year, documenting the creativity that occurs, and managing an art blog on the Internet that will be open for comment and conversation, she said.

“I wanted to expand the idea of a public sculpture being a static, sitting object by one artist,” Orimo said. “I imagined a sculpture in the middle of the village that is a socially active, thinking, changing, evolving thing, that’s kind of like a villager itself.”

The contest judges included ceramic artist Lisa Goldberg, sculptor and architectural designer Tom Hawley, muralist and portrait painter Jason Morgan, and Kim Megginson, a potter and owner of ZIG ZAG Gallery in Centerville. With a very short turn-around for submissions, the panel was impressed with the number and high quality of submissions, Goldberg said this week. They were looking for work that would speak to villagers in different ways about what the village of Yellow Springs is, she said. The judges were also keen to assess whether the art would work technically, be safe, and stand up to the elements in a permanent outdoor setting.

The two larger prizes clearly stood out for the panel of judges, who chose them because they could imagine the pieces in Yellow Springs and the concepts and images appealed to their sense of the village, Goldberg said. And after soliciting further explanation of Orimo’s work, the judges were drawn to the unique wealth of opportunity her phone booth could provide for the community.

“We chose Migiwa’s piece because it was a little riskier, a little different, and we liked that it wasn’t 100 percent just visual but it would allow for multimedia and had the potential to involve all different segments of the community and all different kinds of artists,” Goldberg said. “It could attract poets, performance artists, lights and it was something that so spoke to what Yellow Springs was.”

The artists themselves are very excited about the energy that was generated by the first public sculpture contest they could recall in Yellow Springs. Holyoke spoke to many people about ideas that began to brew among villagers, and not only artists but also teachers, contractors, craftspeople and others who found the artist in themselves when the venue was opened to an outdoor space, beyond the confines of a formal and seemingly “snooty” indoor gallery space.

“When the call went out, it was like a little faucet got turned on,” she said.

The judges too found that the concepts of all the submissions were so strong that they would have liked the ability to fund several more projects, Goldberg said. She hoped that at some point funding might become available for some of those other projects.

“I was impressed by how seriously the artists took the submission process and I loved how different they were,” she said. “Each piece will speak to different people in different ways.”

The unveiling of all three works is scheduled for the October Street Fair, the second Saturday of that month. Though ideas for installation locations for each piece are circulating, the Arts Council is still working with the Village of Yellow Springs to finalize the placement of all three works, Carlson said. Two of them are likely to be installed in the downtown area, and the third is likely to be near a gateway to the village, she said.

Encouraging and increasing public art in the village is among the goals of the YSAC Steering Committee, Carlson said. The CIP also had as part of its mission the promotion of Yellow Springs as an arts town, which helps to attract people to the village, according to Ron Schmidt, chairman of the James A. McKee Association (formerly known as the Men’s Group) that is managing CIP funds. The collaboration of the two groups with the Arts Council worked well, and could possibly serve as a model for future art projects in the village, Carlson said.

Goldberg for one is hoping that the effort will continue because there are many more creative ideas that deserve to be created.

“I think it’s just so exciting and hopefully it’s just the beginning of similar types of projects,” she said. “I think it excited people and sparked ideas and creativity that wouldn’t have come about if not for this. I’m hoping people will find ways to continue with the work that was started.”

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