In early 1993, artist William M. Cochran suggested to the City of Frederick that the Carroll Street Bridge, a plain concrete structure, could be transformed with paint, imagination and public participation into a work of art.
His goal was to make Community Bridge a creative collaboration between audience and artist in a process he called co-creation. He sought to ask all 175,000 area residence, "What object represents the spirit of community to you?" A hundred volunteers repeated this question through the public and private schools, TV, radio, and newspapers, posters, electronic highway signs, sidewalk chalk murals, and countless face-to-face contacts. Thousands of answers were contributed by people of all ages and backgrounds. Later, ideas arrived from all over the world via the Community Bridge world wide web site (http://bridgeskyline.net).
As people answered this question, the artist included their ideas as painted "carvings" in the bridge. These are the keys to the artwork's meaning, representing the ideas of more than a thousand individuals. In most cases the viewer cannot tell who suggested a given symbol, whether they were young or old, male or female, black or white, rich or poor. Together these ideas yield a new perspective on the human condition.
A Shift in Perspective
unusual painting in the circle to your right on the bridge is called Archangel. It is an anamorphic projection, a special type of artist's perspective made to be seen from a sharp angle. If the image is viewed from the correct spot (within the gallery window of the Delaplaine Visual Arts Center), it is transformed (see photo to left). This image represents the shift in perspective the bridge invites: to see through illusions of difference and separation. The title Archangel refers to the tremendous power of such a shift.
Fooled by Appearances
Community Bridge is painted in the trompe l'oiel style, which is a French term meaning "that which fools the eye." Trompe l'oiel creates the illusion of 3 dimensional reality on a flat surface. The artist said, "How easily paint can fool the eye is a metaphor for how easily we are deceived by surface differences in people, like attitude, looks, age, race, or language. These lock us into stereotypes of who we should connect with. We all want to be connected with others, but sometimes we feel we are the only ones really trying. Community Bridge shows that everyone values connection. This is the common ground beneath the apparent differences. We always have a choice to find a bridge, build a bridge, walk across a bridge."
· The mural
covers about 3,000 square feet with more than 3,000 stones and more than 180 "carved" symbols representing the perspectives of a thousand different people.
· Work began in early 1993 and the mural was completed on September 12, 1998.
· Keim silicate paint from Germany was used. Unlike the paints traditionally available in the USA, Keim chemically bonds with the concrete surface and remains light-fast for decades.