“Public art, by its nature, is meant to enhance the quality of life and perhaps stimulate a dialogue within a community on many levels—to search for ways to make life richer for all within the urban fabric,” local artist Stephen Chesley says.
Recently, Columbia has seen an influx in public art works popping up, along with a myriad of different local arts festivals. While Columbia is not always thought of as a cultural hub of the East Coast, the artistic tides have been raised high thanks to the help of groups like One Columbia and Vista Guild.
“Columbia's public art collection is steadily increasing and we've certainly seen an uptick lately,” One Columbia’s Executive Director Lee Snelgrove adds. “One Columbia has more projects in the works for various areas of the city and there are other organizations such as the Vista Guild and the University of South Carolina that are interested in adding more permanent public art. With all the new construction and development, I'm anticipating many more opportunities.”
This year, Chesley unveils his new public art sculpture at the Artista Vista gallery crawl, commissioned by the Vista Guild. The sculpture will reside on Lady Street.
“The sculpture evolved from a project which salvaged the steel from the demolition of the City Garage around 2004, so the materials in the sculpture are recycled. The title of the piece is ‘Cedar’s Fog,’” Chesley explains.
With its triangular base suggesting a ship’s hull and a wind bell within representing the frequency of a fog buoy, this piece offers a balance of industrial and acoustic elements.
“This piece references my affinity for the ocean and the poetic lyricism of cedars,” Chesley discloses. “The sentinel quality and quiet strength of the cedars reflects a stewardship of nature--The dignity of living things.”
This representation of the dignity of living things through Chesley’s work further enhances the aesthetic of the city while providing a rebuttal to the notion that South Carolina lacks cultural growth and development.
“Having this work on public display is a way of sharing its symbolism and adding to the elevation of art and culture in the city--a respite perhaps from the demands of the times and free to contemplate and enjoy--it may help to instill a sense of character and place for the Vista,” Chesley hopes.
This wave of hope for the arts in Columbia washes over the city as local artistic presence increases.
“For me as a citizen of Columbia, it's really great to see public art that is unique and of high quality. I love the idea of the city in which I live expressing itself through public art, and I really enjoy encountering art in my daily life,” Snelgrove says. “But, in my role at One Columbia, I feel that more public art being installed represents Columbian's collective creativity, talent and support for the arts. Public art is a sign to visitors and citizens that we are a culturally vibrant place to live and work.”
The Artista Vista gallery crawl will be April 23-25, showcasing artists and galleries in the Vista along with the premier of “Cedar Fog.” The event is free, so come out and support local art and celebrate the growing culture in the city.
“I would venture to say future of Columbia as a destination point will be enhanced by its level of culture and stewardship of its natural resources,” Chesley says. “It is up to us to plant and nurture now, so that future generations will have fruit.”