If you build it, they will come ... Field of Dreams public art project
Updated: Apr 22
Last Summer, during my workshop at Pittsburgh Glass Center, I submitted a bid and proposal for a public art project in Tom's River, NJ and when I got back from my other workshop at Corning Museum of Glass a month later I found out that my proposal had been selected! I received the deposit to begin work on what actually became two separate projects within one for the R.J. Barnabas "Field of Dreams" park and community center in Tom's River, New Jersey. The park was created "to provide communities in Monmouth and Ocean Counties an all-inclusive complex which has a playground and other multiple physical and cognitive environments which create and recognize everyone’s right to fully participate in equitable play. This inclusive complex intentionally addresses the physical and social inclusion of people of all ages and abilities." The first project is entitled "Abaco Sensoriale," which in Italian translates to "Sensory Abacus" in English. The challenge for the project was to create a kinetic and interactive artwork incorporating my glass art components in a way that would be safe and secure to the park patrons, as well as being able to withstand the elements and child interactions over the course of many years to come. So I created a sculpture featuring thick hand blown glass orbs, strung upon tensioned airline cables and suspended in a frame made of fabricated steel. The structure is fence-like but it doesn't serve as a barrier, rather it is a interactive partition designed for children to spin and slide the orbs on the cables like a Chinese abacus or Tibetan prayer wheel. The orbs were designed to each have different visual and tactile textures, colors and shapes - giving children with sensory processing challenges an opportunity to explore the different characteristics of each component in a safe and effective manor. The sculpture is centrally located between the concession stand and the picnic pavilion in a high-traffic area of the "Field of Dreams" park.
The second project, entitled "Giardino Botanico," consists of three large glass plant-like structures stemming out of large garden planter boxes in the community garden section of the "Field of Dreams" park. The garden boxes will be filled with annuals and perennials, planted by the park patrons and cultivated by the children. Although the sculptures are not designed to be touch interactive, they are approachable and visually stimulating for children with and without physical limitations or developmental challenges. Working on this project was very challenging, but also incredibly rewarding and the "feel-good factor" was through the roof. It was a challenge to try and figure out how to navigate the fragility and potential danger involved with pairing blown glass and metal together in an outdoor public environment (with rambunctious children no less)! But the satisfaction of knowing that my artwork will be enjoyed by the residents of Tom's River, NJ over the course of many years to come is absolutely incredible. I feel honored and humbled to be a part of such an amazing venue; one that brings joy to children of all ages and of all walks of life! - JT