Lipe Art Shark opens West Side sculpture park for summer

Nancy Keefe Rhodes 05/18/10More articles
Muralist Justin Moshaty in front of the eastern face of the Lipe Art Shark at Saturday's opening. Photo by Herm Card.

Its shape is vaguely retro, like the silhouette of an old A&W drive-in or the fast-disappearing golden arches of McDonald’s. And the flyers for last Saturday afternoon’s launch event re-cycled an old movie poster for “Beach Blanket Bingo” with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. Bring a picnic, beach chairs and Frisbees, urged the flyer, which billed the Shark’s launch as the park’s opening for summer, “And we’ll provide the life guards and music.”

The flyer called the Lipe Art Shark “a friendly predator, hunting creativity in the city of Syracuse.” The Shark cozies up to the lone tree, a box elder, in the center of Lipe Art Park on W. Fayette, anchoring a space that’s seen its share of temporary art installations since it morphed from an old train yard two years ago. Now, from the Shark’s central, vertical slab of rectangular concrete, steel beams frame a rising curved canopy of mesh, and above the frame a section of chain-link fence extends the concrete slab’s height but not its solidity. A wrap-around mural on both concrete faces, to be changed annually by the winner of a design contest, completes the Shark.

Artist-architect Brendan Rose designed the Shark, an encore to his popular Tectonic Hand sculpture downtown at City Hall Commons on E. Washington St. A focus of his master’s thesis at Syracuse University, the Shark is Rose’s exploration of “the interlock of vertical and horizontal space.” Equally as important for Rose, the Shark emerged from lengthy collaboration and design critiques within the neighborhood. Earlier Saturday, Rose had attended his convocation at SU, part of commencement weekend, and received the School of Architecture’s 2010 graduate award for contribution through community engagement. “Not the award for high grades!” he laughed good-naturedly.

But Rose has work. Next, he’ll start on another installation in another park for the Northside Collaboratory. On the way to Lipe, I’d passed the pocket park downtown at Warren and W. Fayette, its benches – as always, I’ve noticed - filled with people in what’s otherwise a drab and gritty stretch. Yes, nodded Rose, people really do want these green spaces. Rose had on a Hawaiian shirt & a broad straw hat, in keeping with the beach theme, though many at the picnic were more bundled up.

One of those was local artist Justin Moshaty, who sat at a picnic table with his wife Monique. He had his hoodie up and his shoulders hunched but smiled warmly. He’d finished his mural, “Rebirth of Syracuse,” just in time for the opening. “Rebirth” depicts an octopus, a whale, numerous small fish, swirling waves and three views of Monique. He’d dedicated the mural to his wife, who is six months pregnant. Moshaty used some traditional painting but also spray paint and oil-based markers, so the visual effect ranges from graffiti to pen-and-ink drawing. Moshaty likens his sketchbook to a diary and can tell you how the work of artists like Raymond Pettibon, Saul Steinberg and Paul Carrington has contributed to his style – not to mention Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss. Even with the chill, he was eating one of the hunks of ice cream cake that Syracuse Poster Project director Jim Emmons had carved for people with his Swiss Army knife.

Maarten Jacobs, director of the Near West Side Initiative, which funded the project and shepherded it through the permit process with the Public Art Commission, said after fiddling with the loud-speakers’ volume, “We were looking for something permanent for the space, but not traditional art.” Jacobs, along with Dennis Earle, Ben Walsh, Dominic Robinson, Rick Destito and Jeanie Gleisner, comprise Stewards of Lipe Art Park (SLAP), which, together with 40 Below, hosted the Saturday event. He’s excited about doings on the West Side, like the group art exhibition later on Saturday – re-titled “(In)Case” when it moved to the old Case Supply Building from the Gere Factory – or the celebration for graduating seniors at the new writers center at 601 Tully Street. Like next Saturday’s Second Annual Bike Fair at the Boys & Girls Club, and the journal project also coming out of the West Side Arts Council called “Cross Threads,” that’s now seeking writers to tell stories of the neighborhood.

“Things are hopping here,” said long-time neighborhood resident Carole Horan. “It’s nice not to have to leave the ‘hood for a good time.”

This article (with Herm Card's photo of Brendan Rose) appears in the May 20, 2010 print issue of the Syracuse City Eagle weekly. For more photos of the Shark’s construction, go to Nancy covers the arts. Reach her at

TAGS: Lipe Art Park, Lipe Art Shark, Brendan Rose, Justin Moshaty, public art, sculpture park, pocket parks, urban green spaces, neighborhood revitalization, urban redevelopment, Stewards of Lipe Art Park, 40 Below, Near West Side Initiative, Syracuse University School of Architecture, Syracuse Public Arts Commission, Maarten Jacobs, Nancy Keefe Rhodes
EDITION: The Eagle

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