Hi, my name is Erin Moyer, and I have the best internship in the world. This summer, I get to work as intern with the Office of Public Art and just sort of revel in all of the good work this office has done. Lancaster City features over 70 different pieces of public art. We’re talking murals, sculptures, statues, and interactive pieces, all featured in Lancaster’s streets and parks for all of Lancaster to enjoy. And what better way to take in all of Lancaster’s sights than by touring them for yourself? At least, that’s how I put together the concept behind this blog post. I decided to leave my beloved office/converted closet in City Hall, put on some sneakers, and take on one of Lancaster City’s Public Art tours.
First things first, I would advise you check the weather forecast before setting off on your own public art adventure. I make a point of writing this here, because that is precisely what I did not do before undertaking my own. I took my first tour on one of those especially charming summer days in which the weather veers wildly between two extremes and you need sunscreen and an umbrella within twenty minutes of each other. I approached this circumstance by, quite astutely, bringing neither of those things. I regretted this decision right about when I got sunburned. And I really regretted this decision when I got caught in a thunderstorm. So learn from my mistakes, and my still-soaked sneakers, and plan ahead.
You can find directions for the four Lancaster City Public Art Tours at visitlancastercity.com/artwalkingtours/. All of the tours are independent and self-guided, and you can choose whichever may suit you; I myself chose the aptly-titled Downtown Tour #1, because it would let me walk and explore downtown Lancaster even more. The Office of Public Art has also put together tours that will take you through Lancaster’s public parks, and even along a route from the Amtrak train station into downtown. Whichever tour works for you, follow the map, take a camera, and enjoy Lancaster!
1. Binns Park Iron Fence
Downtown Tour #1 kicks off with the Binns Park Iron Fence. I read my checklist, and I pause. I’ve been to Binns Park before, of course; I have eaten many a food truck catered-feast here on First Fridays. How have I never seen this Iron Fence? Where even is this Iron Fence? I prowl around for a bit, and soon, I spot it. The Fence is right along the park wall on Queen Street, and it’s such a subtle, well-integrated part of the landscape that maybe you’ve missed it, too. The fence, designed by local artisan Dan Alexander is hand-crafted wrought iron, molded and twisted into wavy, organic shapes. The wrought iron really complements the brick of the park wall, and the design of the iron goes along with the lovely Binns Park gardens, now in full bloom. What a nice way to add some creativity into fencing! Duly charmed, I trek on.
2. Binns Park Fountain
The second stop on the tour is the Binns Park Fountain, and unlike the Iron Fence of Binns Park, it would be hard to miss this one: this is the coolest fountain in the world, or at least, as I am prepared to argue, in downtown Lancaster. The Fountain in Binns Park is computer-controlled and interactive. It moves as you move, shooting water up from the ground and at whoever is around to trigger it. Like so many other terrific pieces of public art in Lancaster, this fountain is meant to be played with and enjoyed. And as I walk through the park on a sweltering 92-degree day, there can be no question that the piece is really being enjoyed: children are running around in the water, laughing, splashing, and playing as their parents look on from the shady Binns Park Stage Canopy (more on this piece later!). I am so charmed by their joy, so happy the fountain can be here for this community, and above all so, so bitter that I am an adult and do not also get to play in fountain. I wipe the sweat from my brow, and I trek on.
3. Architectural Fragments
Ever seen the pieces of the large stone pillar lying along the left side of Binns Park? They are not, as I have often maintained, remnants of an ancient Grecian temple. Actually, the stone was salvaged from the Farmers First Bank building, which sat at the current location of the park. The architect of the park thought it might be neat to incorporate some of the old into the new, and worked the architectural pieces into his design. The fragments, now worn and surrounded in ivy, add something of a historic aura to Binns Park
4. Binns Park Stage Canopy
What a salvation the Binns Park Stage Canopy is on a sunny day. The overhang is a piece of what may be termed “functional art:” its architecture adds some art into the city, and it still fulfills some function. The Stage Canopy, another creation by Dan Alexander, is the perfect place to take a coffee break, eat lunch outside, or even just get out of the sun for a little while. I know I, having barely made a dent in my tour and already exhausted, took a long break there. Thank you for the shelter, Binns Park Stage Canopy. I owe you one.
5. Bike Rack
If you turn down Marion Street off of Duke, you’ll be in for a neat surprise: two artfully-constructed bike racks by local sculptor Jeremy Waak, a bit of the Lancaster landscape as subtle as that Binns Park Iron Fence, sit beside City Hall. The angular design inside of the curved bike racks was actually inspired by the old, arch-shaped windows adorning the original City Hall. We’re killing several birds with one stone here: encouraging eco-friendly commuting, adding even more creativity to the city landscape, and adding a little note of Lancaster history into the mix? I am impressed, and I trek on.
6. I Sculpture
Just across the street from City Hall, you’ll find the Lancaster Public Library and next stop on the Downtown Tour: I Sculpture. This piece is the perfect thing to have right outside of a library: part of the Poetry Path, a really cool initiative to integrate poetry into the downtown Lancaster landscape, the sculpture features a wide, steel bench, and an Emily Dickinson poem die-cut out of metal. Depending on where the sun is in the sky, the text of the poem even makes shadows on the sidewalk. I find this fascinating. I read the text of the poem, and it really fits its literary home. Read for yourself:
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –
With the meaning of the poem and its bench, I Sculpture strikes me as the perfect thing to have in front of a library; it’s a great meeting place, a memorable, distinctive community feature, and yet another cool, arty addition to the Lancaster streetscape.
Next up, the Downtown Tour #1 takes you to Musser Park. I’ve actually only been to Musser Park once before this, and that was an accident that involved me being terribly lost. I have to say, I enjoy my return trip much more. It’s very peaceful inside the park today, and the trees are so shady and lovely I cannot stand it. As you walk into Musser Park, you’ll see the next stop on the tour: a sculpture titled Embrace. Constructed out of welded metal, the abstract, yellow piece is so named because it seems to resemble a figure, arms extended, almost seeming to wait for an embrace. The modern sculpture by local artist Joshua Henschel really plays against the rolling, green terrain of the park.
8. The Lancaster Rose
If you keep following the path through Musser Park, you’ll come to a charming stone landing. What better way to accent all of the bucolic vibes than with a red rose, symbol of Lancaster? The next piece on the tour, the Lancaster Rose, is all that its name would suggest: it’s an eight-foot tall, powder-coated Red Rose, done up in bright, bold colors that pop against its dark, leafy backdrop. I love this sculpture, I really do: I love the incorporation of the Lancaster City symbol into a Lancaster City Park, and I love the idea of bringing a super-sized, metallic sculpture of a natural element into nature itself. Bravo, Lancaster Rose. Bravo Dan Witmer for creating this beautiful sculpture.
The third and final sculpture of Musser Park is a tall, tall piece entitled Echo by Elizabethtown College Professor Milt Friedly. It’s made up of bronze circles, stacked in alternating patterns into one long, thin column. The look of the sculpture seems to move and change depending on your vantage point, and its height adds quite a bit to the Musser Park landscape. And, neither here nor there, but while I was at this sculpture, I met a lovely older man who allowed me to pet not just one, but both of his dogs. That’s what we in the Public Art world call a win-win.
10. Eastern Market Mural
The Eastern Market Mural, situated fittingly at the site of the old Eastern Market, depicts a community coming together and enjoying Market Day. It’s painted in bright colors with big, bold strokes, and it really seems to fit its home in the East Side neighborhood. For a still-life mural, it strikes me as lively. This is just one of many beautiful murals done by Two Dudes Painting Company.
11. Eastern Market Bench
In a feat of one-stop public art shopping, the next stop on my tour, the Eastern Market Bench, lies right on the other side of the Eastern Market Mural. The bench is a long, white construction, with wings extending from either side and a poem by Pablo Neruda engraved into its surface. The bench is a resting place, a meeting point, and distinctive feature in the East Side neighborhood. I have also read that, rumor has it, this bench also lights up at night. I have yet to see it for myself, but I am actually pretty excited about to check it out.
12. Grant Street Mural
As is the Eastern Market Mural, the Grant Street Mural is yet another colorful capturing of Lancaster City life. In a style inspired by Charles Demuth’s paintings, this piece by Karen Hunt focuses on depicting Lancaster’s local architecture and treasured historical buildings. It’s tucked away on Grant Street, and makes for a vibrant, colorful point in the community.
13. Christopher Columbus Memorial
Ah, the Christopher Columbus Memorial. We meet again, old friend. I cannot tell you on how many other occasions I have tried to find this memorial, a bronze bust of the famed explorer, and how on every last occasion, I failed. I failed pitifully. I’m really not sure why this has been such a problem for me, to be honest; the piece is on Lenox Avenue, right off of Grant Street. But just as Christopher Columbus (basically) discovered the Western Hemisphere with the grit and persistence so typical of the American character, so too, did I—after my boss gave me directions—finally discover his memorial. This was a big moment, perhaps on par with Columbus’ discovery itself. The memorial is a distinctively rendered sculpture by ART owner Becky Ault, and well worth the visit.
14. Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Unlike my experience with the Christopher Columbus Memorial, it’s tricky not to notice the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. This statue is the very last stop of the Downtown Tour #1, and it’s the perfect way to bring the tour to a close. The Monument, lying right at the very heart of Penn Square—and really, all of Downtown Lancaster—is a 43-foot-tall Gothic Revival memorial. Though it was originally erected to pay tribute to Union Soldiers of Lancaster who fought in the Civil War, it has since been updated to honor all American troops in subsequent military conflicts. If it’s a Market Day when you take your tour, as it so fortunately was for me, go right into Central Market and enjoy yet another great part of our city. I myself went in, immediately sat at one of the tables, and drank three iced teas in half an hour. I wouldn’t have wanted the tour to end in any other way.
The explicitly-named Downtown Tour #1 was a great way to see Lancaster and appreciate only a fraction of its extensive public art collection. And Central Market was a great way to revive myself after. Rain or shine—and believe me, I got both rain and shine—I would totally recommend it. Take this tour (or any Public Art tour, for that matter) and make a day of enjoying Lancaster. Happy exploring!