What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The northern entrance to Waterbury, via Route 2/Route 100, includes an existing railroad bridge. For year, the community has wanted to commission a work of art for the length of the bridge. The goal was to make the bridge, owned by New England Central Railroad, an attractive entrance to the downtown.
The town of Waterbury successfully recovered from the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The downtown is once again vibrant and alive. As a community we were ready to turn our attention to another section of town – North Main Street, which is the entrance to the town and community. Work had already been completed on a roundabout, new banners hung on the historic lampposts along the road, a new Welcome to Waterbury sign was installed and businesses were beginning to thrive in the area. The railroad bridge is an important feature as the main entrance to the downtown area and was in need of an appropriate statement to enhance the vitality of the area.
The Waterbury Rail Art Project was an opportunity to reflect Waterbury’s historical sense of place, build community, and create identity for the residents and businesses of downtown Waterbury.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
Though components of the project changed and adjusted over time, the overarching goal, of commissioning a work of art for the railroad bridge never changed.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
This project would not have happened without the involvement of people and organizations from across Waterbury. The Leadership Team was made up of Karen Nevin, the Executive Director of Revitalizing Waterbury (RW), who served as the Artist Coordinator. RW took the lead on the entire project. Barb Farr, State of Vermont Transportation Community Liaison for the Town of Waterbury. Barb is also the President of the Waterbury Historical Society. Theresa Wood is immediate Past President of the Waterbury Rotary Club, a board member of Revitalizing Waterbury and a State Representative.
WRAP Team Members:
Whitney Aldrich, an artist, Waterbury resident and small business owner of Axel’s Gallery & Frame Shop.
Monica Callan, an artist, owner of the Waterbury Grange Cultural Center, the founding member of MOXIE Productions the President of Across Roads Center for the Arts.
Charles Hunter, Assistant Vice President, Government Affairs, Genesee & Wyoming Railroad.
MK Monley, the art teacher at Thatcher Brook Primary School.
Darrick Pitstick, a Waterbury resident and small business owner of Pack & Send Plus.
Sue Scribner, a resident of Waterbury for 32 years.
Sarah-Lee Terrat, an artist with over 35 years of professional design and fine-arts experience.
Revitalizing Waterbury, Waterbury’s community development and downtown organization (provided administrative and overall organizational support)
Waterbury Rotary Club focuses on service to the community through club projects (provided organizational support, site prep and engineering consultation)
Sons of American Legion Post #59 (provided organizational support, site prep and engineering consultation)
Town and Village of Waterbury (provided organizational support, installation consultation and support and ongoing maintenance)
New England Central Railroad Company (provided permission for use of site and organizational support)
The public was involved in numerous ways and at different times of the project:
1 – Waterbury Rotary Club took on the initial fund raising to begin the project. They held fundraisers to raise their initial donation of $12,500.
2. Community members were invited to participate on the Waterbury Rail Art Project team.
3. The WRAP Team had a public presentation of the four semi-finalists project concepts in July 2017. The public was invited to see the presentations and hear the artists speak about their proposed concepts.
4. The WRAP Team held a community vote of the two semi-finalists to select the final artist and project concept. 800 community members including approximately 300 children voted. The vote was held over two weeks and the project was on display in two locations – the municipal office and a local deli. Voting boxes were set up throughout town. Philip Godenschwager's concept of the train with historical buildings was the clear winner with over 75% of the vote.
5. The community was invited to donate towards the project during a community-wide solicitation.
6. The train engine, which was the first “car” finished by Phillip was put on display in the window of Stowe Street Emporium for two weeks for the community to see the project as it came together.
7. The Waterbury Rotary Club and the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance spent two days clearing brush and cleaning the area around the railroad bridge in advance of the installation.
8. The WRAP Team asked for help during installation. Volunteers were sought to help with traffic guidance and pedestrian control.
9. The WRAP Team held a celebration party and public lighting ceremony. The party was invitation only, however, everyone who had helped in any way to make the project happen were invited and 60 people attended. This included all donors, the Waterbury Rotary Club, the Historical Society, the American Legion, fabricators, insurance staff and even the flagman who worked the day for us on traffic control. The public lighting of the sculpture was held immediately afterwards. Approximately 40 people attended the public lighting.
10. We had four community organizations donate to the project, 7 local companies donate, and 16 community members.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
We were particularly interested in two of the previous Animating Infrastructure projects that were funded by the Vermont Arts Council. The project in Jeffersonville consisted of two large murals painted on two abandoned silos. These structures were central to town and the paintings brought the community together to envision something new. The trees project in Morrisville caught our attention, particularly how they engaged the community and involved residents in choosing the project.
Finally, I have personally been inspired by the City of Pittsburgh and their emphasis on public art. Everywhere you turn in the city you come across an exciting façade, sculpture, square, alley, lamppost, sidewalk, wall…its endless. The idea of coming across something that surprises and engages you was a primary consideration when planning the Waterbury Rail Art Project.