The next gift to the community by The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro’s Public Art Endowment is Rise Together Greensboro, a collaborative, site-specific and community-based sculptural project by artist Charlie Brouwer.
The completion of a monumental sculpture made of hundreds of ladders borrowed from area residents is now as a featured element of this year’s 17DAYS Festival and proved to be quite a draw for the recent local debut of the National Folk Festival.
Rise Together Greensboro has engaged the Greensboro community by asking residents to lend their ladders to make a large-scale, temporary installation that was installed within the footprint of the 17DAYS Festival area downtown – thus creating a symbolic tribute to “building community.”
Brouwer erected the sculpture at 122 E. Lindsay St., between North Elm Street and Summit Avenue, the former site of the Greensboro Inn and future home of the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts. This positioning is in the heart of the National Folk Festival footprint and t0ok full advantage of high-profile visibility for local residents and out-of-town visitors, alike.
The Endowment’s 2015 project follows its temporary, interactive public art project last year – Tagtool, which engaged an estimated 1,500 people in light-projected, electronic artwork on large structures such as the water tower at Bennett College and the façade of the Carolina Theatre.
Individuals, families, businesses, schools, churches and other organizations – everyone – were invited to participate in Rise Together Greensboro. Brouwer, who lives in Floyd County, Va., received more than 500 ladders of all kinds for the project, including many ordinary real ladders of all sizes, stepstools, toy ladders and creative ladders made of different material. Many lenders personalized and decorated their ladders, and they lent them in the name of someone or something they wished to honor or memorialize, too.
“Each ladder represents the hopes and dreams of a part of the community, but when they
are all connected, supporting and being supported by each other, they have risen together to create a metaphor for community,” Brouwer said.
Organizers recorded and tagged every ladder, and its lender is included on the “List of Ladder Lenders” signage on site, as well as on the project’s website – www.risetogethergreensboro.org. All ladders will be returned after the month-long exhibition, but if owners do not want theirs back, their ladders will be donated to Habitat for Humanity of Greensboro for resale.
The project’s goal was to include hundreds of ladders from as many people and parts of the community as possible so the metaphor of a true community rising together was achieved. The artist regards the entire project – from informing and engaging the public, to borrowing ladders, to building the sculpture in Septemberand returning the ladders in early October – to be the artwork. “The beauty”, he says, “was in the participation, cooperation and community togetherness.”
Visitors can now walk into and around the installation, read the names of lenders on the tags, and find their own ladders within the sculpture.
Brouwer earned his MA in painting and MFA in sculpture from Western Michigan University. He was a professor of art from 1987-2008 at Radford University in Virginia. Since retiring from teaching, Charlie has dedicated himself to creating and exhibiting his own artwork. He has completed similar ladder installations in communities around the country including Atlanta, St. Louis, Roanoke, Va., and Wilmington.
Information and images of Charlie Brouwer’s projects can be seen at www.risetogether.info