HARTFORD — Sculpture in the City is a cityscape-focused program launched in recent weeks activating the works of sculpture and architectural design on the grounds of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and beyond. The Wadsworth’s historic buildings and installations of public sculpture, joined by two important works of public art neighboring the museum, Alexander Calder’s Stegosaurus and Carl Andre’s Stone Field Sculpture, are at the core of this effort, said an email from the museum. Signage on the grounds makes self-guided touring possible any day in person, aided by links to in-depth stories, archival images, and video content accessible anytime online. Live programming around the initiative spans guided outdoor art talks with Wadsworth curators, conservators, and education staff (available with advance registration) to content created by partnering organizations Connecticut’s Old State House, Hartford Public Library, and Judy Dworin Performance Project available online via www.thewadsworth.org/sculpture-in-the-city.
“Every day, and especially now, we are focused on keeping art in people’s lives and enlivening the experience of everyone in our city,” said Thomas J. Loughman, director and CEO of the Wadsworth. “This opportunity to generate discussion and excitement around art, architecture, and history helps people appreciate our cityscape in this time before our reopening of the galleries later this summer.”
The works of outdoor sculpture vary in style, material, and narrative; ranging from site markers of Revolutionary War history to contemporary abstractions referencing a horse, a flowering amaryllis, and World War II-era camouflage methods. The Wadsworth’s five facades represent architectural styles including Gothic Revival, modern International Style, and 1960s Brutalism, each an opportunity to convey stories about formative museum patrons. Signs at each stop on this outdoor itinerary include a brief introduction to the work of art or architecture, interactive prompts for group discussion or individual contemplation, a social media participation activity, and QR code linking to further online resources. Multiple walking tours encourage self-guided exploration of the art and architecture in downtown Hartford—all are available to download on the microsite. The Wadsworth welcomes submissions of historical, architectural, and public art information to be added to this page’s developing resource list. Contact the museum through the link on the thewadsworth.org/sculpture-in-the-city webpage to share any recommended content.
An additional sculpture will soon be added to the Wadsworth grounds. “Across the Limpopo,” c. 1974, by American artist Melvin Edwards will be installed at the corner of Atheneum Square North and Prospect Street in early August. Edwards created the painted steel sculpture a few years after he taught at the University of Connecticut and after his first visit to Africa which sparked a life-long engagement with the continent. It was first exhibited at the Wadsworth in Gilliam / Edwards / Williams: Extensions, 1974, at which time the museum purchased it.
From his travels in Africa and around the world, the artist brings an awareness of a wide network of cultural and political references to his abstract works of art. Across the Limpopo, refers to the Limpopo River in Africa, which starts in South Africa and flows generally eastward. It forms the border between South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, then traverses through Mozambique before flowing into the Indian Ocean. The bright orange, lyrical sculpture will be a striking addition to the cityscape outside the museum following a complete restoration last summer. Visitors to last autumn’s Afrocosmologies may recall seeing Across the Limpopo in the Main Street lobby. Its curved and swooping shapes give the impression of being, in the artist’s words, “motion captured and frozen” or “a drawing in space.”
Outdoor Art Talks: All talks below are free and open to the public but require advance registration via www.thewadsworth.org/events. Visitors are required to wear a face mask and observe safe social distancing while on the grounds of the Wadsworth. No restroom facilities will be available in August and visitors are advised to plan ahead for their comfort.
Abstract Nature: Thursday, August 20, noon. Explore how modern sculptors use nature as inspiration for their abstractions with Angela Parker, Docent and Tour Programs Manager. Consider how modern outdoor sculptures interact with the nature that surrounds them.
The Facades of the Wadsworth Atheneum: Wednesday, September 9, noon. A tour of the museum grounds highlights the history of the Wadsworth, public works of art and monuments, and sites significant to the development of the museum and its most renowned patrons. Janna Israel, adult and academic programs manager, shares more about the Wadsworth’s architecture and outdoor sculpture and their contributions to various twentieth-century art movements. Availability is limited and advance registration is required via www.thewadsworth.org.
Conserving Bronze: Saturday, September 19, noon. Objects conservator Casey Mallinckrodt leads discussion about conservation practices outdoors focused on the Wadsworth’s project to clean and restore the statue of Nathan Hale, which has stood on the museum’s Main Street lawn since 1894. Availability is limited and advance registration is required via www.thewadsworth.org.
To support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is temporarily closed. Outdoor and virtual programs will be scheduled during this time. Visitors are encouraged to wear a face mask and observe safe social distancing while on the grounds of the Wadsworth. No restroom facilities will be available in July and August and visitors are encouraged to plan ahead for their comfort. The museum is readying the galleries with a goal of reopening the interior spaces to the public in early September.
Founded in 1842 with a vision for infusing art into the American experience, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is home to a collection of nearly 50,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years and encompassing European art from antiquity through contemporary as well as American art from the 1600s to today. The Wadsworth Atheneum’s five connected buildings-representing architectural styles including Gothic Revival, modern International Style, and 1960s Brutalism-are located at 600 Main Street in Hartford. Public phone: (860) 278-2670; website: www.thewadsworth.org.