The aim of The “Y” Project is to promote a greater understanding of social issues through temporary sculptures placed in public space, in the form of the letter Y, to cultivate positive change over time. The project asks us to reflect on the statement, “Why do we live so comfortably with an imbalance of human equality and irresponsibility?”
The University of Connecticut is the sixth installation of the project, which expresses a belief and serves as a reminder that change is possible, and we can reach common goals, and that the spirit of goodwill among people of all nations can prevail if we ask ourselves what role we play in the presented situations and work towards change. The project’s power is in its simplicity and ability to plant a seed to benefit a cross-section of a community at large.
Public art has the inherent power to reach a wide audience, and because the installation will be in community space, the imagery and the messages it carries will be embedded in the everyday fabric of life of those who walk by. In this sense, the project truly will be a dialog between art and ordinary people--not just those who regularly seek out cultural exhibits, but also those who are simply walking their dogs, commuting or going about daily activities.
It is my hope to eventually include thirty issues in The “Y” Project. The goal of the completed project is to site the project in the Salt Flats of Utah to be photographed in the vast emptiness.
The “Y” Project began in New York City under the umbrella of the New York Foundation for the Arts in 1998 with “Y Discriminate” while a second sculpture “Y AIDS” was part of an international art festival “Convergence” in Providence, Rhode Island. Y is a touring exhibition building its way to include thirty issues. (Y Think, War, Art, Corruption, Educate, Circumcise, Royalty, Untouchable, Addictive Drugs, Ego, etc.)
In New York City, students from the New School, inspired by the piece, created a film around it. Community members approached me during the de-installation expressing a desire for the statue to remain; appreciative of the message, they thanked me. An excerpt from Jennifer Belle’s article in the Sunday Magazine of The New York Times (11/22/98, back page) she says, “For months I brooded about the Y. I discussed it in therapy. I ranted to friends. I considered chaining my bicycle to it, or even myself, as I imagined Ruth Wittenberg might have done. I started noticing other public art, as if for the first time. Why couldn’t I have the cute bronze creatures in Hudson River Park instead of my Y? I was really beginning to wonder about myself. And then something strange happened. I stopped noticing. The Y stood there tall and proud, but I had stopped discriminating against it. I didn’t even see the men come to take it away. David called and invited me to a movie. ‘I’ll meet you at the Y’, I said.”
The Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, the sculpture’s site, was purposely chosen for Ms Wittenberg marched with Dr. Martin Luther King fighting discrimination.
In Rhode Island “Y AIDS” became part of the urban landscape in Washington Square Park. Commuters ate lunch by it, children played near it and visitors photographed themselves in front of it. During a flight, years after, a RISDI student through conversation told me how the piece was discussed in art class, some students saw the piece in New York and brought that into the discussion.
The “Y Sculptures,” spiked up like trees in four parks in Cambridge Massachusetts – Sennott, Clement G. Morgan, Corporal Burns and Donnelly Field in 2008. An arts education program was conducted with The Community Art Center’s Teen Media Program. Eight shorts films were the outcome, which have a direct or indirect dialogue with the “Y Project”. They were shown at the 12th Annual “Do It Your Damn Self” National Youth Video and Film Festival, November 2008.
Public forums to give the community an opportunity to discuss the project were held in September at The Community Art Center (119 Windsor St., Cambridge) and I presented my body of work at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (7 Cambridge Center, Cambridge), November 2008.
A partnership was formed with Cambridge Cares About AIDS to furthering AIDS prevention while reinforcing their visibilityand dedication to an underserved community as well as the community at large.
In 2009 the four Y sculptures we placed in Provincetown Massachusetts “Y Think” at MacMillan Pier, “Y AIDS” at Waterfront Park, “Y Discriminate” at the Provincetown Office of Tourism, and “Y Care at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum”.
In 2010 a partnership with Alternatives brought the four Ys to Whitinsville, MA. Art education programs were created to serve the community at large. Alternatives offers a wide spectrum of residential and vocational services of the highest quality to people with developmental and psychiatric disabilities.