To read this story, please sign in with your email address and password.
You’ve read all your free stories this month. Subscribe now and unlock unlimited access to our stories, exclusive subscriber content, additional newsletters, invitations to special events, and more.Sign in Subscribe
Don’t have an account yet? Register here.
When plans for a light-emitting sculpture to illuminate a downtown alley fell through, Sculpture Walk Springfield pivoted. The result is “Alleyscapes,” and it debuts Oct. 1.
“We have had a partnership with the Hatch Foundation for these alleyways, to put light and to put art in the alleyways and make them safer,” said Bridget Bechtel, Sculpture Walk’s executive director. “And so we were thinking is there another alternative we can do to still bring light and still fulfill that need?”
Sculpture Walk board member Sean FitzGibbons, the executive director of the History Museum on the Square, mentioned he had seen video productions projected onto buildings and parking garages. The idea was a hit.
Now each month from October 2023 through September 2024, a new video art piece, with sound, will be projected from sunset to midnight in the “backstage alley” behind the Hotel Vandivort and the Landers Theatre, adjacent to Robberson Alley. New Alleyscape pieces will debut at First Friday Art Walk and remain on view for one month.
Each piece, that is, except the first one.
“We worked with Pitt Technology Group to develop this alternative and we chose this weekend to coincide with Celebrate Springfield, which is a Hatch Foundation event,” Bechtel said. “We’ll still have all of the perks that would go along with light sculptures, but it’s also something new and innovative.”
Bringing beauty, light — and safety
The perks go beyond light beauty. They’re lead to a brighter, safer alley that connects businesses on South Jefferson to South Avenue. Recent improvements along that stretch include a staircase and a Sculpture Walk mural.
“Having a large-scale projection that’s going to emit light onto that alleyway is making it safer for people,” Bechtel said. “One of the things that we’ve found — and anyone who’s done any kind of light projection projects has found — is that no one’s going to do anything unsavory in the light. So it decreases crime, it decreases drug use, it decreases using that space as a bathroom. It’s just a simple but great solution.”
Cinematographer and professor is the first featured artist
FitzGibbons, who has an MFA in sculpture himself, was also influential in finding the first featured artist for Alleyscapes. He connected Sculpture Walk with Adam Hogan, an artist, cinematographer, researcher and Assistant Professor of Experimental Media Arts at the University of Arkansas. Hogan holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Seattle, in Digital Arts and Experimental Media, and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis.
“His work engages expanded cinema and experimental approaches to moving image and sound,” a Sculpture Walk press release said. “As a cinematographer and director of photography, he has been all over the country and to many parts of the world to create images. This work spans traditional production, but also includes experimental collaborations with artists, choreographers, musicians and composers.”
Hogan’s work and collaborations have been featured in national and international festivals, exhibitions and collections including the Smithsonian Institution, Metropolitan Museum, Athens Digital Art Festival and DOC NYC. More recently, his work has been part of a national theatrical release in 2021 that can be found on streaming platforms including Amazon Prime and AppleTV.
“We’re really excited to have someone with such an impressive resume, an impressive CV, bringing his art to Springfield,” Bechtel said.
A new direction for Sculpture Walk Springfield
Sculpture Walk Springfield released its eighth collection of sculptures in April of this year and plans to continue its work as an open-air museum. Alleyscapes, however, is the first step in a new direction for the organization.
“It’s a bit different than what the community would normally see from us and this is sort of the direction we’re going,” Bechtel said. “We want to grow our public art realm. We’re looking to do more of these big, interactive things that help the community, beautify the community and bring something unique to it.”
And just like the rest of Sculpture Walk’s installations, Alleyscapes is free and open to the public.
“You don’t have to buy tickets, you don’t have to sign up, you can just pop by and see what it’s about,” Bechtel said. “It will have sound in addition to the art that you’re going to look at, so it’s going to be an immersive experience and we’re hoping to grow that as well. I hope having something like this downtown will encourage people who don’t normally consider it for a place for dinner, or don’t want to drive all the way over from the southside, to come downtown and provide some economic vitality for the businesses.”
Teamwork is bringing Alleyscapes to life
That esprit de corps downtown runs deep, as several groups and individuals have worked together to bring Alleyscapes to life. The Hatch Foundation supplied the initial funding, while Pitt is providing the technology. John and Karen McQueary are allowing Sculpture Walk to install the projection equipment on the back of Hotel Vandivort.
“It is a group effort and I think one of the best things about our downtown — and about our Springfield community at large — is that people want others to succeed and see projects come to fruition,” Bechtel said. “Everyone is invested in the betterment and progression of our city, which is the whole point. It’s a large project. It’s quite an undertaking. But by the same token, it’s been made so much easier by the wonderful people at Pitt and the McQuearys and the Vandivort staff. They’re all on board and ready to help. We couldn’t have done this without the community that supports us.”