Local artist ties downtown to Fox River setting with ‘Fox and Muskie’ design
The Village of Oswego and the Oswego Cultural Arts Commission have announced the winner of a manhole cover public art contest with a piece designed to connect downtown Oswego to its surrounding natural beauty.
‘Fox and Muskie’ by Boulder Hill resident Elizabeth Teitge, depicts a fox and a muskie nestled into each other, capturing the perpetual movement of a native fish and the serenity of a snoozing fox. The figures are surrounded by cattails and a rising sun.
“The Fox River is a key landmark for Oswego. That’s part of what defines Oswego is being on the river,” Teitge said. “Muskies are indigenous to the Fox, and foxes tend to sleep curling up in a ball, so I played around with how I could make that flow.”
As construction rolls out on new dining, shopping and residential developments and their adjacent street and infrastructure upgrades, manholes for water, sewer and electrical infrastructure will feature the new design on their covers. Downtown visitors will be able to view the manhole covers up close particularly on the new Block 11, where a pedestrian-friendly alleyway promenade is planned to connect new restaurants.
Because the new manhole covers will be on stormwater sewers and have both a physical and artistic connection to the river, they will also be used to promote the Village’s efforts to maintain the river’s water quality.
The design was one of 42 designed submitted to a call for artists made in December. A group of Oswego residents, downtown business owners and staff from various Village departments weighted in on the submitted designs and identified three finalists. Local artists Judy Kellerman, Liz Tadych, and Teitge were awarded $200 for their desgins. Teitge has been awarded an additional $1,000 for submitting the winning design and working with the Village and the manhole cover fabricator to produce a version of the design that can be cast in iron.
The manhole cover project is an early step in establishing a vibrant public art collection in Oswego, part of the mission of the Cultural Arts Commission, which has been laying the groundwork over the past several months to develop an aesthetic and guiding principles for a public arts program.
“Public arts programs provide communities with uniqueness, meaning and value, defining who the community is,” said Tamzin Ritche, chair of the Cultural Arts Commission. “Public art can also engage dialogue, educate, and capture imagination and attention. Public art is accessible to everyone and can create a sense of place and significance to public space. The Oswego public arts program has the intention of achieving all of that through functional aesthetics, that is, pairing public art with existing programs and needs of the Village to maximize meaning and value while minimizing costs. The manhole cover project is the Village’s inaugural project and the Cultural Arts Commission will be very excited to see them in place.”
This project was chosen as a first step towards public art because it allows the Village to add to the public art collection for only the cost of casting a mold and awarding the winning artists.
“We needed to buy new manhole covers as we begin reconstructing streets throughout downtown,” said Community Engagement Coordinator Jenette Sturges. “This allowed us to purchase a piece of art to enliven our downtown space without having to pay extra for traditional art materials like bronze, stone, or concrete, and we’re very excited to be adding this little touch to the built environment.”
The manhole covers will be forged and placed during construction in areas that will be restricted to the public for safety reasons. Once construction is complete, residents will be invited for an up-close look to celebrate the new work.
More information about artist Elizabeth Teitge, and more examples of her work can be found at www.teitgedesign.com.