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Getting to Know Summit Public Art

Summit Public Art (SPA) was started in 2003 by former Mayor Janet Whitman and other art lovers, under the aegis of Mayor Walter Long

Editor's Note: The following press release is written as an interview conducted with some members of the Executive Board of Summit Public Art: Patricia Kettenring (Chairperson), Marie Cohen (Co-head of Art Selection), Diane Gallo (Head of Development) and John Petrides (Treasurer).

What is Summit Public Art?

Pat: Summit Public Art (SPA) was started in 2003 by former Mayor Janet Whitman and other art lovers, under the aegis of Mayor Walter Long, who hoped to enliven the city by bringing contemporary art to Summit, both permanently and on a rotating basis. 

SPA is a separate City of Summit organization consisting of 16 volunteers whose ultimate goal is to enhance the aesthetic, cultural and artistic experience for Summit residents and visitors by providing sculptures created by artists, both local and international.

How are artists discovered and selected to be, say, on the Village Green?

Marie: We have an Art Selection committee that identifies and selects outstanding artists from throughout the country (and more recently, internationally – We just installed a piece from Paris!).   Our focus is to select a wide range of work that will inspire and add to the visual character and vibrancy of the community. 

All art pieces are reviewed by the City Council. Once approved, the piece is usually loaned to Summit for 6 months to a year. After the piece is approved, we then have an installation team that works with the city to place the art at city-approved locations. We have even had some pieces purchased by Summit admirers.  We are happy to report that we are gaining the reputation among many artists as a “hip art town.”

How are the sculptures funded?

Diane: The committee raises funds through several approaches. First, we have our annual June Gala, where we raise funds from private donors, friends, family, community members, etc. We have also done both specific and general mailings to our lists, asking for donations.

Next we apply for grants from various foundations and organizations. Finally, we attempt to engage local corporations and businesses for support. Here is where we think there is a great opportunity for local businesses to give back to the community and be recognized for it.

I have been hearing a lot about “The Tree,” as the new welcome sign for the town. What is “The Tree”?

Pat: A renowned artist, Douwe Blumberg, was commissioned after an extensive search process, to design a Gateway sculpture, welcoming people to our “tree city.” He is putting the final leaves on this steel, 16-foot sculpture as we speak, and it will be installed in the mini-park on Broad Street this fall.

How many pieces of art have been exhibited by SPA in the last ten years and what has been the largest sculpture you have displayed?

Pat: Since 2003 Summit Public Art has placed more than 35 works on a temporary basis throughout the city. Additionally it provided the permanent faceted glass art windows in the three bus shelters on Broad Street.  Additionally we are preparing for the installation of the first of several planned entryway projects, this one to be a 16-foot stainless steel tree by well-known artist Douwe Blumberg.  The tree will be installed at a minipark at Broad Street and Dayton Road by the end of this month, October, 2012, and will enhance the experience of visiting our welcoming community.

Is Summit Public Art the same as Summit Visual Art Center? If not, what are the differences?

Pat: Summit Public Art differs from the New Jersey Visual Arts Center in spite of the similar mission to provide art exhibitions, training and appreciation through bringing art and artists to the city.  SPA accomplishes this through the sculptures placed on the Village Green, at City Hall, and in other public locations. Meanwhile the Arts Center provides art appreciation opportunities, exhibitions and instruction to resident and area art students and viewers.

How many fundraisers do you have a year?

Marie: Our biggest fundraiser is in June with a smaller fundraiser in January. The events typically honor Summit residents or local artists who have contributed to the art community in some way. Past honorees have been Robert Kaplow, Anne Poyner, Alex Gibney, and Marion Grzesiak, to name a few.

How can local Summit residents participate in Summit Public Art?

John: One way is through donations. Since we are non-profit we are always looking for funds to support the cause. Readers can make a donation at http://sapfnj.org/ (click on "Donate now"), and/or send a check made payable to SAPF - "Public Art" (on memo line specify "General Fund or "Tree Project") and mail to SAPF, PO Box 867, Summit, NJ 07902-0867. Secondly, residents can volunteer their time and suggestions and/or join our distribution list by providing your email address, sending it to mkooi@juno.com.

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