Artist proposes bicentennial statue
By KIRK SWAUGER
As a boy growing up in Kernville, Peter Calaboyias would pedal his bicycle to the inclined Plane, ride up the side of the. mountain to Westmont and stare into the Conemaugh Valley below.
Nearly half a century later, the images of the hills surrounding the city of Johnstown, the Stonycreek and Conemaugh rivers where little boys could not play, and the smokestacks still dance in his head.
Now an internationally acclaimed sculptor living in Pittsburgh, Calabooses is proposing to forge his boyhood memories of Johnstown into a statue for the. city’s bicentennial legacy.
The city will celebrate its bicentennial next year, culminating with its birthday on Nov. 3.
"This," said Calaboyias, creator of the bronze sculpture in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, "is probably my most personal statue."
Civic leaders and historical planners are trying to secure a sponsorship and donations of some materials and labor for the statue, which will cost more than $100,000 just to cast its five tons of bronze, Calaboyias estimated.
"It’s the kind of thing people will really like. It's a really moving piece of art," said Richard Burkert, executive director of Johnstown Area Heritage Association.
"Plus," Burkert added, "it does stuff."
Imagine 22 slabs of bronze, arranged in two offset semicircles around a 4-foot-wide dish of water. The patinaed bronze plates, descending from 11 feet to 1 foot to symbolize the mountains surrounding the Flood City, depict subtle images of Johnstown its steel mills, railroads, architecture and culture.
Water will cascade behind the plates, gently flowing to the top of the bronze before dropping back to the ground. Rays of light will shoot from between the plates at night.
The two semicircles will be arranged to draw spectators closer to the water, which will lap the statue’s brick foundation, Calaboyias said. It is like the seashore with no distinct separation between the water and ground.
Where the statue would be placed downtown remains uncertain, although Calaboyias and others involved in the project mentioned the small parklet across from Morley’s Dog at the corner of Market and Main streets as a prime location.
"It’s not your traditional sculpture," Calaboyias said in a telephone interview from his studio in
the Shadyside section of Pittsburgh. " This is participatory,"
Calaboyias, whose father operated Franklin Lunch across from Central Park, lived in Johnstown for 12 years before graduating from Johnstown High School in 1958. After graduating from Penn State, he moved to Pittsburgh, where he has lived since.
Calabooses’ sculptures can be found the world over. His aluminum wall relief hangs at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. He has pieces on university campuses and in public parks, shopping malls and private collections in the United States, Greece and Germany.
His most famous statue was commissioned for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the modern games. Three runners, each 9 feet tall, stand inside a huge arc that rests on a stone that was quarried on Mount Olympia, where the Olympics originated.
The Atlanta sculpture, titled "Tribute," was scratched by shrapnel by the bomb blast that killed a woman and injured 100 others during the games. The damage was not repaired.
"I want the slight damage left there because they are marks of history now," Calaboyias said then.
Calaboyias and his family came to Johnstown in 1946 by way of the Greek island of Icaria and the Belgian Congo, where they lived until the end of World War II.
He said Johnstown and Icaria are two places where he’d most like to see his statues. He recently traveled to Icaria to discuss placing a statue by the harbor.
Calaboylas met with Johnstown officials to discuss his proposal last week. His presentation at Crown American Corp. headquarters was cut short by a bomb threat outside nearby USBancorp.
The idea came about when Calaboyias was showing some of his sculptures at Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, 411 Third Ave. in Cambria City. While there, he said he’d like to do a statue for Johnstown, recalled Rosemary Parlously, the art center’s board president.
"Here is a man who’s artistry is appreciated around the world, who wants to do something to reflect life in Johnstown," Parlously said.
"It’s a very exciting conception. It has some great artistic components, and it’s a personal statement some of his boyhood memories."
Used with permission of The Tribune-Democrat
The Tribune-Democrat, September 19, 1999Kirk Swauger is a feature writer for the Tribune-Democrat.
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