This 14-foot sculpture called 'Fitzroy's Guitar' was erected at Gregg Park last week by Indiana artist Alex Mendez as part of the 2021 Public First City Sculpture Exhibit. Staff photo by Jenny McNeece
This 14-foot sculpture called 'Fitzroy's Guitar' was erected at Gregg Park last week by Indiana artist Alex Mendez as part of the 2021 Public First City Sculpture Exhibit. Staff photo by Jenny McNeece
Residents enjoying a chilly autumn stroll in Gregg Park this week may notice more than the park’s towering trees, thanks to the continuation of a project sponsored by the Northwest Territory Art Guild.

The First City Public Sculpture Exhibition 2021 is beginning to take shape as three of nine new outdoor sculptures have been erected in the city this week.

Last winter, during the first year of the new public sculpture program, the exhibit featured seven outdoor pieces by artists from across the nation.

Now, nine additional ones are being added — three at Gregg Park, three at Vincennes University, one at the Vincennes Tourism Bureau, one at Fireman’s Park, and an additional sculpture will be added to the already existing exhibit on the Riverwalk.

On Monday afternoon, the 14 feet tall sculpture “Fitzroy’s Guitar” was hoisted into place by Indiana artist Alex Mendez and a small team of volunteers.

The 500 pound steel sculpture, at first glance, is merely a tower of simple shapes and wavy lines painted an oceanic blue, but viewing it from a distance reveals the whole to be a guitar — one with a neck of only a few frets.

The sculpture is, perhaps, paying homage to the humble beginnings of jazz guitarist Fitzroy Coleman who, as a boy, built his own version of a guitar by nailing a pan to a plank of wood and stringing it to make music.

Mendez, too, is a musician and has said “just a few notes can make a simple melody; simple forms come together to make an instrument,” which is something seen in the simple, yet larger than life, guitar now situated in Gregg Park.

A continued walk through the park will also bring residents to Illinois artist Bill McGrath’s sculpture “Angles, Shadows 2.”

And Ohio artist Shawn Morin’s 2020 sculpture “Courage Under Fire” has been aptly placed in Fireman’s Park.

As with the placement of the 2020 sculptures, organizers say the sites of each piece have been selected because of their aesthetic surroundings.

“We want the sculptures to add to the environment and the environment to add to the sculptures as well,” said Andrew Jendrzejewski, one of the exhibits organizers.

And, based on feedback received so far, residents have taken notice of how the site selection for each sculpture has an impact on the work itself and its surrounds.

“We’ve had individuals say that they felt like the sculptures themselves are interesting, but also that they made them see the environment differently,” said local artist Amy DeLap.

Too, she adds, residents have noted that they appreciate having sculptures out where they are accessible in daily life, as opposed to being housed in a gallery.

More than a year ago, the local art guild, a non-profit organization located at 316 Main St., selected Jendrzejewski and DeLap — both retired Vincennes University art professors and the owners of Art Space Vincennes LLC — to lead the First City Public Sculpture Exhibition.

Thanks to a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission and a financial gift from the Vincennes City Council, as well as individual donations, DeLap and Jendrzejewski were able to put out a national call to artists for large sculpted works to be installed at sites around the city for the 2020 exhibit.

With various funding sources agreeing to support the project once again, the committee was able to review dozens more proposals submitted from all over the United States, all of them clamoring to be part of the 2021 show.

Using a high traffic online arts platform to reach artists across the nation, DeLap said they received sculpture proposals from artists living as far away as New Jersey and New Hampshire.

But three of the selected sculptures for this year’s exhibit have been created by Indiana artists — including the Alex Mendez, as well as his brother Greg Mendez, whose sculpture will be placed outside of the tourism bureau on Sixth St.

As with the sculptures installed in 2020, each one included this year will be on loan from the artist for a three-year period, but with an option for a business or individual to buy the artwork and therefore have it permanently placed in Vincennes.

The group originally intended to have all of the large sculptures installed by the end of August, but a delay on the pouring of concrete bases for each piece pushed that back three months. However, organizers hope all nine will be in place by year’s end, with plans for a celebration in the spring of 2022.

“It was unfortunately delayed, but I am so excited and so relieved it’s coming together now,” DeLap said cheerfully. “This is kind of the pinnacle.”
Copyright ©2022 Vincennes Sun Commercial