Tuesday, December 5, 2023

This foundation is putting sculptures across the city. Here’s why

"Selene" at the Mariners Museum and Park (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Newport News Public Art Foundation)
“Selene” at the Mariners Museum and Park (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Newport News Public Art Foundation)

NEWPORT NEWS — From granite to bronze, these large sculptures are found throughout the city from the entrance to the Newport News – Williamsburg International Airport to the turn circle of Christopher Newport University.

But what are these sculptures for and how did they get there?

Bobby Freeman, founder of Port Warwick, wanted to put six sculptures of public art in the Port Warwick community and the mayor asked him to display art in the city for the public to enjoy.

Together with the city, Freeman founded the Newport News Public Art Foundation in 2002 a nonprofit tasked with incorporating public art pieces in the city. While he no longer serves as the head of the nonprofit, Freeman helps the nonprofit’s board select the artists, said Danny Carroll, executive director for the art foundation.

“It’s pretty unusual for a city this size to have such a beautiful collection as we have,” Carroll said.

At each sculpture, viewers can use their smartphone to listen to an audio tour about the sculpture and listen to the artists describe their piece in detail.

While the foundation has some businesses who offer anything from cranes, concrete and lighting, the nonprofit mainly relies on city grants and fundraisers to pay for the pieces.

It’s not clear how much it costs the foundation to maintain each piece from the elements and the nonprofit recently hired a specialist to survey each sculpture.

Carroll said for perspective, Carambola, a bronze globe at the Main Street Library, has several cracks and some rust, which will cost about $18,000 to repair.

On the nonprofit’s website, there is a tab called ‘The Case for Public Art‘ which displays photos of the Charging Bull on Wall Street in New York City and the ‘pop art’ tribute to love in Philadelphia and the following quote:

“Public sculpture memorializes what we think is important; it lifts our spirits, it centers our civic life, it makes our world more beautiful.”

So far, the foundation has installed 20 sculptures, including “Selene” at the Mariner’s Museum and Park, the most recent sculpture being “Handshake,” at City Center.

The foundation expects to install a new pieces in October from Italy titled “Man in Crocodile” with two crocodile benches at Newport News Park.

"Man and Crocodile" (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Newport News Public Art Foundation)
“Man and Crocodile” (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Newport News Public Art Foundation)

In the future, they hope to work with the Newport News Green Foundation to install an art piece on a green space and in September, will give an activity book for kindergartners to Newport News Public Schools to get kids interested in the sculptures, Carroll said.

“Our goal is to make Newport News the best it can be by placing this beautiful public art throughout the city,” Carroll said.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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