Millennium sculpture a success

Urban Landscape

Wishes: Thousands have visited the structure built downtown as part of the New Year's celebration to leave messages for 2000.

January 06, 2000|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

SHAWNTE WANTS TO win money in 2000.

Tanya wishes for world peace.

J. and T., who got engaged Dec. 23, hope for "a happy life together."

An unnamed baseball fan wants "a decent relief pitcher for the Orioles."

Those are a few of the sentiments posted on the Millennium Resolution Sculpture constructed in McKeldin Plaza at Pratt and Calvert streets in downtown Baltimore.

The $10,000 sculpture, called "Turning Point: Mankind's Millennium Message," was created as part of Baltimore's celebration of the new year and will be up until this weekend. Since it opened in mid-December, more than 5,000 visitors have left messages about their hopes and dreams for 2000 and beyond.

"People really seem enthused about it," said Tracy Baskerville, spokeswoman for Baltimore's Office of Promotion, the agency that commissioned the sculpture. "It was something that had never been done here before. It was a good way for people to express themselves."

The sculpture was designed by three employees of a local architectural firm, Development Design Group: Stewart White, Jesse Turner and Michael Peters. Individuals and companies, including the design firm, donated time and materials to keep costs down.

The sculpture consists of a circle of 12 10-foot-tall tablets that double as posting boards for messages. At the center of the circle was a 35-foot-tall obelisk that came down this week.

Since mid-December, visitors have been given yellow, pink and blue "resolution cards" and encouraged to write messages that were stapled to the panels. Some participants tape-recorded their thoughts. The messages run the gamut from broad wishes about world events and the environment to specific concerns about the writer's family and other loved ones. Many are religious.

The designers, who were selected after winning a limited competition, say they have been gratified by the responses.

"They form a time capsule in a way -- a record of what people were thinking," White said.

Turner said participants fall into two categories -- those who wanted their messages posted right away for their friends to see, and those who wanted to keep them secret. He said the most touching messages, for him, involved families.

"There was a lot of heartfelt stuff," he said. "Parents wanting to get a decent home for their children. Kids wanting to get their parents off drugs. One said, `I wish God would pray for my mother.' "

Peters said he was impressed by the variety of responses.

"There was everything from nihilism to Jesus and everything in between," he said. "It shows a lot of people are out there with a lot of wants and needs. It was interesting to see how they became expressed."

The designers said they received valuable assistance from several homeless men who live near McKeldin Plaza: they helped build the sculpture and watched over it to prevent vandalism. Now that the artwork is about to come down, they hope to find permanent jobs for the men.

"I think they got a sense of pride and accomplishment out of this," Peters said.

After the sculpture is dismantled, the designers said, they intend to store and preserve the message boards with the messages attached. They said they would like to find other places around Maryland to display the panels to show what people in Baltimore were thinking about at the start of the new year.

They also plan to post a sampling of the responses on a Web site: www.eastcoastrefugee camp.org/millennium.

"This was my first experience with interactive art, and I think it worked out pretty well," White said. "You put something out there and let people react to it. It does tell a story."

The totality of it is what's impressive, Peters said. "When you see it all at once, that's what really sinks in."

Photo exhibit of women in architecture opens today

"Photographic Portraits of Some of Baltimore's Leading Women in Architecture" is the title of an exhibit that opens with a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today in the gallery at the Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, 11 1/2 W. Chase St. The reception is open to the public. Bill Lyons is the photographer. The exhibit runs through Feb. 1.

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