Bridge artwork advocates make case at council meeting

Four area residents spoke in favor of a proposal to add additional artwork to the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge during the public comments portion of Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. Earlier in the month, Mayor Ann Thane asked for $325,000 to be added to a tentative list of capital projects being considered by the Common Council that would require the city to borrow funds for. The bridge, which is currently under construction, is scheduled to be completed later this year.

The amount would match a NY State grant already awarded to the city and would cover the cost of adding Amsterdam” lettering on each side of the bridge, a compass-like design on one end of the bridge which along with other engravings on the bridge’s surface, would depict elements of Amsterdam’s history, and a depiction of the historic “wheel of life” design on the other side of the bridge. The council has yet to form a consensus on the issue.

Phil Lyford of Amsterdam spoke first and talked about the historical precedent and importance of public artwork. He displayed pictures of statues constructed at the Green Hill and St. Stanislaus’ Cemeteries, as well as interior artwork that was commissioned by the former St. Casmir’s church.

“There were no movies or videos at this time. Spiritual inspiration came from the art in the public space,” said Lyford.

Next, Jackie Murphy talked about the stained glass artwork at St. Mary’s as well as the statue of Isaac Jogues at Lake George that was commissioned by NY State in 1939.

Although not a current city resident, she said she grew up in the city. “I believe in Amsterdam and I think a lot of people do. And there’s a certain type of people that will want to come to this bridge that enjoy art and history,” said Murphy. “If you build it, they’ll come.”

Marilyn Andrews of Amsterdam said, “Let’s not just have a piece of metal and concrete across the river, but a bridge that captures Amsterdam’s historical legacy. Wouldn’t it be nice not only for the citizens, old and new, of Amsterdam, but also for future visitors to realize the magnitude of our history, in part just by walking the bridge?”

Dorothy Domkowski of Amsterdam spoke about the historical significance of the “wheel of life” carpet design made by Mohawk Mills for the Waldorf Historia Hotel in New York City in 1938. “This was the most spectacular carpet produced in Amsterdam,” said Domkowski.

She added, “When I graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High school in 1964, I was fortunate to be awarded two arts scholarships. One from the Century Club…and a three-year scholarship from Mohasco.”

She continued, “After graduating and working in Buffalo, Miami and Tallahassee, I was pleased to return to Amsterdam and use my art skills [for free] to help any kind of non-profit organization that I can. Some people trusted in me, gave me money and I’m pleased to be able to come back and return that. In the same way, your investment in this artwork is an investment in Amsterdam.”

Domkowski cited the success of other pedestrian bridges at generating tourism and economic growth, such as the Walkway over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie NY, the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne, MA, and the Highline in NY city. She also related her recent experience of visiting an exhibit about the Sanford family at the Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs.

“My friends and I paid the admission, viewed the exhibit, ate lunch and went shopping,” said Domkowski. “We spent money in Saratoga. Other people can spend that money in Amsterdam.”

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.