Art meets industry at Sparrows Point

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October 09, 2005|By CHIAKI KAWAJIRI | CHIAKI KAWAJIRI,SUN REPORTER

When a worker at the ISG Sparrows Point steel plant told me about a Japanese artist who was making sculptures there with the help of ironworkers, I was intrigued by the possibility of a rich visual story.

Here was an opportunity to go back to the steel mills, which I found hauntingly beautiful, and also to find out how a fellow Japanese was making her way in the United States.

When I visited the light fabrication shop, I was greeted by huge sculptures that seemed to come to life, dancing to the pounding and banging of the steelworkers.

The rhythm became music to my ears as these remarkable craftsmen became part of these fantastic art forms.

I was impressed by their dedication and artful efforts, but more than anything I was moved by their attachment to the artist, Setsuko Ono, who had produced the drawings they were following and was directing details of their work.

The workers told me they were planning to have a sushi lunch party to celebrate their shared effort, even though some of them never imagined eating raw fish.

The respect and admiration were mutual.

Ono made sure that the sculptures bore the names of all the steelworkers, including one who had to leave before completion due to illness.

Overwhelmed by this energetic woman, I realized that we had things in common.

Our mothers, who didn't have careers of their own, encouraged us to go out in society, despite obstacles. I, too, find joy in attempting to create beauty. And we both hope to make the world a better place through our work.

The six sculptures produced by Ono and the Sparrows Point workers will become part of an annual revolving exhibit at McKeldin Square, near the corner of Pratt and Light streets.

To see additional photos of Setsuko Ono's work, go to baltimoresun.com/ono.

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