By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Austin Collins will make the three-day drive from Indiana to Salem this weekend, pulling precious cargo on a trailer: his sculptures “Temple Gateway,” “Four Wise and Weary” and “Fern Temple III.”
The three contemporary sculptures will be installed throughout Salem on Tuesday as part of the city’s recent push for public art.
The pieces are painted steel and range from 10 to 22 feet tall. They’ll be installed Tuesday morning on Artists Row along New Derby Street, at the intersection of Front and Washington streets, and on the green in front of the former Salem Jail, next to Sgt. James Ayube Memorial Drive.
Collins, an artist and professor of sculpture at Notre Dame University, has displayed his outdoor sculpture in more than 100 installations throughout the U.S. This is the first time they’ll be shown in Salem.
Collins said he’s happy for the exposure and to contribute to the city’s public art initiative.
“I think artists are sometimes limited to galleries. ... The whole dialogue becomes a little richer (with outdoor, public art),” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. ... New England is just a great area for exposure, and (Salem) is internationally known. I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Several large, abstract sculptures were installed downtown in the summer of 2011, and the success of that program led to the decision to do so again, said Lynn Duncan, director of the city’s planning and community development department.
“We’re excited. ... Sculptures were really well-received when we did them two years ago,” she said.
The installation comes in the midst of the city’s recent focus on public art. Salem received a $25,000 federal grant last year to put toward the creation of a citywide master plan for public art. Several meetings have been held to gather public input for the plan over the past year.
A draft of the master plan is posted at www.salem.com, along with a survey to gauge resident feedback.
“We’re looking to continue to build momentum for developing public art throughout the community,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll. “The temporary sculpture exhibition (of Collins’ work) is an integral part of the city’s evolving public art program.”
A member of the master plan working group suggested Collins’ work be displayed this summer, Duncan said.
Collins studied art at the University of California at Berkeley and has a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from Claremont Graduate University. He focuses on public art and large outdoor sculpture in painted steel, concrete, bronze and plaster.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.