Art Sculptures Attracting Second Looks
By Jack Urso

"One of the main ways to judge its success is to track the brochures. We've moved 25,000 brochures in six to seven weeks,” said Pamela Tobin, executive director of the BID. “(The statues) are quite popular.”

"The opinion of the board is that the exhibit has been overwhelmingly successful with popular support,” she added.

The statues were brought back to Albany for another summer after a BID committee, which included representatives from the local arts community, couldn’t agree on an alternative display. Other options will be sought for next year, Tobin said.

"We're going to have a committee meeting in September to see if were going to bring them (Johnson's statues) back next year or have another type of art," she said.

Albany’s streets are home to 20 statues: six were on display last year, and another 12 were added this summer. Johnson is the grandson of the founder of Johnson and Johnson and the heir to one of the largest fortunes in America.

The statues have been known to fool people at a distance, and a closer examination reveals great attention to detail by Johnson. A man’s sports coat or woman’s dress has texture to it, and his attention to the chemistry of paint – similar to the advanced technical pigments used on airplanes that resist weathering – results in the statues’ vibrant colors

“We were hoping (the arts community) would embrace the project,” Tobin said.

As an alternative, she said, upon Mayor Jerry Jennings’ recommendation, the BID suggested a project similar to Chicago’s Art Cows, a project in which local artists decorate hundreds of life-size fiberglass cows with a variety of media. The project has both popular and critical support.

“As far as the Art Cows are concerned … other than a brief mention there was no real discussion of it, no research of the costs,” said Doug Pace, executive director of the Albany-Schenectady League of Arts. “It certainly wasn't what we were looking towards."

Pace, Sara Cunningham of the Albany Center Galleries, and Sharon Bates, director of the Albany International Airport Gallery, were asked to advise the committee on alternative art programs. Despite much work on the part of some members of the committee, Pace said no final proposal was made on other artwork.

But Tobin said the important issue is that the statues are drawing people downtown.

“Art is all a matter of perspective and opinion,” she said. “We see an increase of people on the weekends. We know that it is bringing people in. A lot of businesses are doing quite well, except by those impacted by the North Pearl Street construction "

Sculpture in the Streets will be on display in downtown Albany through the end of September. Brochures for the walking tour are available at the Visitor's Center, 25 Quackenbush Square.

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