After several months and more than 660,000 votes cast in the 2012 Reader’s Digest We Hear You America campaign, Collingswood will bear the fruits of its labors.
The contest finished with Collingswood in 16th place, which meant the borough was awarded a $5,000 cash prize from Reader’s Digest (and also ruled out of the 2013 competition). Borough leaders decided to use the money to fund a public art installation in Knight Park, and held a contest this summer to solicit submissions.
Despite initial plans to put the submissions up for a public vote, only six entrants submitted designs for the contest; of those, several were ruled out as impractical.
“The Knight’s Dragon,” a three-piece, 16-foot-long sculpture was selected as the winner, and its creator, Joanna Pizzo, will work with a team of sculptors to install it over the coming weeks.
“The Knight’s Dragon” will be constructed with sustainable materials and outfitted with solar-powered lighting that will make it visible at night. From beyond the borders of the park, the sculpture will appear as though it is emerging from the lake (in actuality, it will be anchored on a peninsula near the water).
Cassandra Duffey, Director of Community Development for Collingswood, said that she’s excited to see the result of the project, which she dubbed “a Christmas gift to the borough.
“Going all the way back to the beginning, the contest was a really exciting project,” Duffey said. “As they always do in Collingswood, you expect 100 people to come out and 1,000 people come out.
“For people to do something extra, it should be like a Christmas gift to the borough; they can go and look at it and touch it,” she said.
Duffey called “The Knight’s Dragon” the “standout” among a small field of entries, some of which were “immediately excluded because of practical considerations like wiring issues or liability issues,” and another couple that just didn’t measure up artistically.
“We didn’t get a superfluity of entries that were great for the park,” she said. “[The Knight’s Dragon] was cool, it’s visual, it’s big, and we think it’s kind of got a mass appeal,” she said.
A straw poll of Collingswood residents and workers at Grooveground last week seemed to agree with her.
Jared Hassen, 26, said the sculpture “offers a little feeling of place” that would be accentuated by darkness.
“Imagine a kid going by there a night,” Hassen said. “It’s nice. It offers something unique.”
Abby Schreiber and Emma Scully, both 17, loved the design.
“It looks really cool,” Schreiber said. “Our park is so conservative. I really hope that people in Collingswood can appreciate something like that.”
“It’s funky. It’s different. Maybe it will start an artist’s revolution,” said Scully. “I would walk by it every day.”
Schreiber added that she did have some concerns that because Knight Park is across from the high school that the Knight’s Dragon could become a target for vandalism, but said the sculpture would make her feel more comfortable in the park at night.
“It will be a cool little lit-up spot,” she said.
Devon Winfree, 23, was less enthusiastic.
“I don’t see Collingswood in it,” she said. “I guess I don’t understand. I think it’s a cool sculpture, just not for the installation.”
Meanwhile, George Hornbostel, 63, asked the most important question of the day.
“Can kids climb on it?” he asked. “I know a large kid who will sit on it. “