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Public weighs in on how to grow city’s Art Walk

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
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Posted 3/4/23

Griffo Green? Peace Park? Or both? Where should the next installation in the city’s new Art Walk go?

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Public weighs in on how to grow city’s Art Walk


ROME — Griffo Green? Peace Park? Or both? Where should the next installation in the city’s new Art Walk go?

Staff from the city Department of Community & Economic Development, along with project consultant, CLA Site Landscape, Architecture, Engineering & Planning, P.C., Saratoga Springs, discussed the next phase for Rome’s Art Walk during its first of three public meetings held at the Capitol Theatre last week, including the possible future location of a new art piece.

The next phase of the project builds on the Deo-wain-sta public art plaza located within the 300 block of W. Dominick St. The Art Walk is envisioned to support economic activity and business development within downtown, and capitalize on the tourism activity generated by Fort Stanwix National Monument.

Those unable to attend the first public meeting, but would still like to give input, will have the opportunity to attend two more public meetings to be scheduled in the coming months.

After receiving funding from the Department of State Brownfield Opportunity Area Program, the city will now site additional art installations to enhance the Art Walk Corridor in the West Dominick Street Arts District. The project seeks to use strategic placemaking via art as a way to strengthen the downtown district, ultimately attracting more visitors and residents. The project will include a visioning exercise, community outreach, and architectural and engineering services.

West Dominick Street is a locally-designated Main Streets Area that is home to a number of small businesses, the historic Capitol Theatre, cinema, and a vibrant art community within Downtown Rome. Due to the large presence of arts and cultural organizations, public art installations have been identified as recommended throughout the Erie Boulevard Brownfield Opportunity Area along West Dominick Street, as a way to promote the intersection of arts, culture, and history within the city.

Public art is known to add cultural, aesthetic, and economic value to communities. It presents an opportunity to strengthen a community’s identity, engage the passerby, and encourage interactive experiences.

Project goals are:

Create a high-quality public realm that seamlessly connects all aspects of downtown, promoting walkability and vibrancy.

Create an environment that attracts and fosters economic opportunity and celebrates diversity.

Celebrate and leverage the existing historic and cultural resources to establish downtown as an arts and cultural hub.

Leverage the 100,000-plus annual Fort Stanwix National Monument visitors.

CLA Founder Peter Loyola led Thursday’s presentation before a handful of community members in attendance at the Capitol, including local business owners, members of the arts community, and representatives of Rome Historical Society.

Loyola said there are several themes the city may consider to highlight, including the historical, “which can even go back to pre-historic times.”

“There’s the Mohawk (River) and Woodcreek, the Great Carry and the Upper Landing, and there’s also the Rome and Erie canals,” said Loyola as he listed the possibilities.

Rome is also known as a city built by the hard work of its middle-class residents, especially during the turn of the last century.

Because Rome was widely middle class, “You can highlight the shops, saloons, restaurants and hotels” that once made downtown, Loyola said.

The different aspects of Rome’s history and the downtown community of the city’s past “can be interpreted for art themselves when we commission out for art” to be included along the Art Walk, he said.

Loyola said he recommends the city consider art pieces that are interactive and cannot only attract visitors to the downtown area, but also make them want to keep coming back. Rather than large historical markers, he suggested pieces that are “low text and high visibility — you want lighting, not a lot of reading,” he advised. “You want to consider something that’s visual and audible, that can incorporate motion lighting or something interactive that’s kid and family-friendly; offer places to sit for local families or places to have lunch. It can be hands-on and functional for every-day users.”

Loyola also highlighted the different genres of art that could be represented along the walk, including modern interpretative images, mural walls, resin panels and backdrops, flatwork in connection to sidewalk art, three-dimensional lettering for branding, large adult swings, etc.

Modern technology can also be incorporated, he said, with UR codes placed at the artwork or in certain locations — codes that once scanned by someone’s cell phone can provide historical or interpretive information about the location.

Loyola also suggested the Art Walk Committee consider the concept of “here is the past and envisioning our future,” and also have the intersection of James and West Dominick streets serve as the “Art Gateway,” which could be visible from Fort Stanwix for visitors.

Deputy Director of Community & Economic Development Matthew Andrews explained that the driving force of the Art Walk was the installation of the Deo-wain-sta monument, which was dedicated in May 2021. With help from the Oneida Indian Nation, Andrews said the installation of the first Art Walk piece went “exponentially,” but that COVID had stalled efforts from moving forward.

Thursday’s meeting had the intent to “explain the process and get ideas floating again” about future plans for the walk, Andrews said. “We’ll be looking at theme, location and what else makes sense. We want to make an informed decision based on public feedback.”

Right now, Andrews said the city has about $70,000 in funding to be utilized toward the next piece or pieces of art along the walk. Planning officials said the city will also “have a good chance” of receiving additional state funding to support the project.

“The Art Walk is one way to capitalize on the fort’s economic impact and encourage people to come check out what Rome has to offer, and it may entice them to come back,” said Andrews.

Jon Matwijec-Walda, owner of superofficial coffee shop, 216 W. Dominick St., said he didn’t want future installments to be a monument, and instead for exhibits to be interactive and attractive for children.

“You need to integrate play and interpretive pieces” to engage youths, Matwijec-Walda said. “This project can’t be just something that this generation is excited about. It has to give children the desire to stay here and build upon what we’re doing now.”


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