Public Art (and Opinion) Downtown
-by Elyssa Alfieri
As someone who typically never “reads the comments”, I must admit to a new hobby: I am totally fascinated with reading the comments section whenever a picture is posted of a new piece of public art downtown. Sometimes, if I think it’ll get more comments once it’s seen more, I even check back later to see if anyone added anything good. I’m not usually disappointed.
Since last year, the City of Concord has facilitated the installation of a variety of sculptures downtown - along with the help of many other committees, artists, and involved citizens. You’ve probably noticed them cropping up all over town. When you factor in the new murals, the rotating and usually quite kitschy installations in Capital Plaza, and the fact that some of our local business owners are creating NYC-worthy window dispays… it’s getting pretty fun downtown!
With the art, comes the photos of the art all over social media. And then… the comments. Sometimes I think people forget that other people will read what they write - but I never underestimate a public opinion. Whether it’s the Intown Concord Facebook page or one of the seemingly endless downtown Concord Instagram accounts, there’s always someone offering a hilarious or maybe just an extremely honest opinion. I love it. “Let’s flamingle,” one clever observer remarked on the photos of the flamingo installation in Capitol Plaza. “They don’t feel very Concord-y”, was a comment on a different piece.
It’s been quite the debate, especially the new driftwood chair between Gibson’s and the SMILE Building. This piece was featured at the League of NH Craftsmen (who happens to have headquarters in the SMILE Building) so it’s well-known enough to have comments recognize the artist who created it, Mark Raganese. It’s also large. And people really, really want to sit in it. But it’s made of what appears to me to be driftwood (and has a big old DO NOT SIT sign), so I’d imagine that’s just a no-no all around. Not stopping people from wanting to take a nap in the big chair though. And not stopping them from commenting about it either!
I think at the end of the day, that’s what public art should do – spark debate. And Concord’s newest pieces sure have! Some have been big hits – like “American Dog” by Dale Rogers on the corner of N. Main and Centre St. But everyone loves dogs. That one is easy. Plus, that particular doggo is quite well known. Some have been harder for folks to figure out than others. Check out the new piece on the corner of North Main and Capitol Streets called “Taper Deco” by Rob Lorenson, and tell me if you think it’s a “C” for Concord, a doughnut, a portal to another dimension ala “Stargate” … or maybe you see something entirely different?
There’s another new piece down in front of New England College and Gyro House, called “The Space Within” by Gillian Christy. I was walking by it a couple of days ago and heard a little girl say to her mom, “it’s a big magic bird house!!!” which is probably my favorite interpretation so far.
Is this not the most “Concord-y” thing about it all, the debating? We Concord residents are not known for keeping quiet, that’s for sure. We are literally named after an argument. Well, the resolution of one – or the “concord” (defined as an “agreement or harmony between people or groups.”), ifyou will. Just please don’t pronounce it that way. 253 years ago, long feuding towns Rumford and Bow *finally* quit arguing about boundary disputes, called it a day, and settled on town lines… and in the process renamed Rumford to Concord. So, like, a big old “agree to disagree” kinda thing. And as our ancestors did in 1765, so we do now. We air our grievances, opinions, beliefs, and honestly whatever the heck else we feel like… and then carry on agreeing to disagree. You see it in the comment sections; people saying things like “you’re entitled to your opinion” and meaning it. Those people probably live next door to each other and I just don’t know it, or they both do morning yoga on the State House lawn or something else “Concord-y” like that.
And they’re agreeing to disagree right there on the streets, when they don’t even know it. One person is looking at that sculpture over there and imagining transporting to another dimension… and someone else is taking a selfie they’re going to add sprinkles to and maybe even throw in a Homer Simpson reference to “round it out” before they add it to their story… wait, am I making puns now, too? #VisitNH
Elyssa Altieri is a freelance stylist, social media maven, vintage lover, and all-around Concord super fan. You can usually find her at her consignment shop, Lilise Designer Resale (or LDR), on Storrs St downtown. She also really wants you to know LDR is dog-friendly.