Even if you’ve never been to Chicago, you’ve seen touristy friends post social media selfies with Chicago’s public sculpture, “Cloud Gate,” more commonly known as “The Bean.”
During a celebration at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, the Monroe Road Area neighborhood, or MoRA (“MoRA rhymes with “Laura”), is unveiling its own version of that kind of artistic, community focal point. The 16-foot art piece, currently known as “Art@thePoint” until its official name is revealed tomorrow, is impossible to miss at the point where Conference Drive and Monroe Road converge at 6621 Monroe Road, by Hawthorne’s New York Pizza and Bar.
The sculpture, funded by individual and community contributions, is made of aluminum, polished stainless steel and mosaic tiles.
The Monroe Road Advocates, a group of residents and area stakeholders also known as MoRA, who are shaping the rebirth of the Monroe Road corridor, have been determined to see this art project through to completion since the unexpected passing of public artist Leslie Scott, 57, in April. Scott had envisioned the sculpture and was in the midst of turning the project into a reality when she died in her sleep.
Scott’s vision was to create a community gathering place with a substantial piece of public art as its anchor. She broke ground in January and began holding workshops for community members to craft tiles for the mosaic portion of the sculpture.
“She would encourage people to be themselves,” said MoRA board member John Lincoln. “…People would let down their guards to actually create.”
Hundreds of people contributed tiles, incorporating inspirational words and phrases like “look up,” “dance” and “dream.”
Then, Scott died.
“It was such a punch in the gut and in the heart that we lost her,” Lincoln said.
The project initially stalled, before local artist Lee Baumgarten stepped in and picked up where Scott left off. Brian Smith of Carolina Fabrication also contributed to the structure’s engineering.
Today, you can see a seating area, steel arches and a mirrored and mosaic-tiled disk — its circular shape is a symbol of life and connection. The disk splits, so people can walk in front of it and through it. They can stand on either side of the disk and see their reflections, just like Chicago’s “Bean.”
“She wanted people to see themselves, the community to see themselves,” said Monroe Road Advocates board chair Kathy Hill, of Scott.
Scott’s vision is set to become a reality, as people stop to take a look into the mirrored edges of the completed art piece.
Lincoln said 40,000 people drive past this point of land each day, and the Monroe Road Advocates are working to shape people’s perception of the Monroe Road corridor as a stopping point or destination, rather than as a mere pass-through on their commutes.
“The only thing that was not there until we started promoting it was an identity,” Hill said.
Her group hopes this art installation will not only draw attention to what already exists in this area, but that it will heighten the creative energy of MoRA, attracting more businesses and residents.
MoRA also has permission to use the point of land that holds the art piece as a gathering place, whether for a local event or a drama presentation by East Mecklenburg High School students.
Hill said, “What we intend to do is be creative so that we make that area as vibrant and livable as possible.”
Photos: Katie Toussaint, MoRA