Points of Reference
Credit: Video production by Wm. T. Spaeder’s Marketing Department.
Points of Reference is a gateway sculpture at the north side of the intersection at 3rd and State Streets on adjacent corners in downtown Erie. The sculpture intertwines vivid, vibrant contrasting colors, locally-inspired graphics, and a chroma therapy lighting application at night. The gateway sculpture was installed on Monday, August 2, 2021.
This is the third public art project placed by the Erie Downtown Partnership. In 2018 the public mural “I am…I will be…” was installed on the side of the Palace Building on the 900 block of State Street. In 2020 the “Her Voice, Her Vote” mural was placed at the corner of 7th and State Streets on the HANDS building.
Points of Reference was inspired by the local spirit of endurance and perseverance from its pivotal role in the American Revolution and the industrial revolution to present day coming together to fight the COVID-19 virus as a community.
Historically Erie has been a maritime center, a railroad hub, and a manufacturing hub. These references gave the artists the idea of origin, tradition, and knowledge, and these become reliable anchor points and foundations that allow for growth and expansion.
Transitioning from a declining industry, Erie is adapting and rethinking its industries to include a diverse mix of small scale innovative manufacturing, health care, technology, and tourism. Erie has also grown culturally diverse as it welcomes new Americans as a sanctuary city. These ideas are fused together in symbolic graphics applied as tattoo-like markings and create the potential for growth, expansion, and development. The artwork explores how the backbone ideas of tradition, old/new culture, and history, can develop and propel new ways of thinking and expand growth. The Points of Reference Gateway sculpture is shaped by the motion of the past, present and future of Erie.
Aphidoidea [Ahh-fi-doe-idea] is an art and design collective, led by Jesus Eduardo Magaña, Paulina Bouyer, Andrew Hernandez, and Jackie Muñoz, based in Los Angeles, CA.
The collective creates site-specific art installations that engage with people and enhance the built environment in otherwise generic or marginalized spaces through the exploration of concept derived by cultural, site, materials, and interactivity opportunities.
Inspired by public interaction and perception, their work has evolved to include visitor response, spectator interaction and art that responds to the site during the day and during the night. Their installations employ different materials because the location and conditions always change—from the ephemeral to the permanent—from technology-based to analogue applications they seek to blur the line between architecture, art, design and technology.
Points of Reference was a collaborative project between the Erie Downtown Partnership, the City of Erie, and Erie Arts and Culture with generous funding support from UPMC Health Plan, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.
Erie Arts and Culture provided guidance on the artist Request for Qualifications process during Phase 1 of the artist selection process as well as guidance on the Request for Concept process during final artist selections.
The City of Erie provided guidance on buried utilities, structure placement, engineering, electrical connection, and sidewalk applications. They will also provide the forthcoming sidewalk and cross walk design upon their planned streetscape plan execution at this location. The City of Erie is the owner of the sculptures, making this piece the first public art piece in the City’s public art collection.
The Erie Downtown Partnership contracted with Barber Hoffman Engineering firm to finalize the structural integrity of the sculptures. A special thanks to Kate Suzelis and Miller who worked with the artists and the fabricator to ensure the integrity of the concept.
The Erie Downtown Partnership contracted with Craig Newell Fabrication and Welding in Cambridge Springs, PA to create and powder coat the sculptures. Craig provided a lot of knowledge and guidance on creating the structures and he and his team worked diligently to bring the artists’ concept to life beautifully.
The Erie Downtown Partnership contracted with Vavala Concrete working with owner Tom Vavala to prep the site of the sculptures with a concrete pedestal as well as essential sidewalk work to level the area.
The Erie Downtown Partnership contracted with Lathrop Electric working with owner Harry Lathrop to provide electrical conduit placement to provide electric to the sculptures for the evening lighting effect.
Team Hardinger moved the sculptures from the fabrication site to the gateway site.
The Erie Downtown Partnership contracted with Wm. T. Spaeder Company to crane the sculptures into place.
The gateway project was a response to the 2016 Downtown Master Plan to create districts celebrating downtown’s unique neighborhood and corridor characteristics and assets. The downtown gateway project helps to set the environment, acting as an anchor point, for other long-term, on-going strategies as outlined in the downtown master plan including the need to recognize and promote the four districts in downtown Erie to help support social and economic synergies.
The plan specifically recommends, “Pursue design elements and themes specific to each district: colors, furniture, styles, signage, sidewalk patterns, bus shelters, flower pots, streetscaping, historical and cultural markers and public art.”
The Erie Downtown Partnership held five public input meetings in April of 2018 near possible gateway corridors within downtown. Public input was sought on gateway location, style, and concerns and opportunities. A landscape and architecture firm was hired to help us facilitate these meetings and capture community feedback as well as consider possible gateway approaches and styles.
The greatest opportunity was realized to pursue an artist with experience in placemaking design to assist us with the project.
The Erie Downtown Partnership used a number of local and national artist networks to invite artists with placemaking experience to submit a Request of Qualifications. Fourteen artists submitted a RFQ and the gateway committee selected three finalists to come to Erie to learn more about the site and the community. The finalists came from California, Utah, and Australia and spent three days in Erie meeting with members of the community. Public meet and greets were held at Ember + Forge in downtown Erie, near the site of the project.
Upon their visit the artists each submitted a Request for Concept, which were reviewed by the gateway committee. Aphidoideas’s concept, Points of Reference, was selected for the project.
Just as the project was starting to be further developed the COVID-19 pandemic came to our region. While the pandemic limited our ability to do further in-person community engagement and artist collaboration were able to work through virtual platforms and continue the project.
Installed August 2, 2021
On August 2, 2021 Points of Reference was installed and on August 3, 2021 the gateway was officially dedicated at a small gathering of partners, funders, and local businesses who all contributed to the planning and creation of the piece. The dedication concluded with a special blessing from Mayor Joseph Schember.