Labor of Love Transforms Storage Lot Into Tourist Attraction

Aug 07, 2003, 01:00 ET from Allegheny College

    MEADVILLE, Pa., Aug. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- As essential service hubs,
 transportation department garages serve a critical role in most communities.
 They provide a functional yet unglamorous home for the staff and heavy
 equipment needed to keep traffic and people safely across the country.
     (Photo: )
     But in Meadville, Pennsylvania, thanks to an award-winning project led by
 Allegheny College Art Professor Amara Geffen, residents and tourists are
 appreciating the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation maintenance
 facility as much for its aesthetic appeal as for its invaluable service to the
     Geffen, art students, interns with Allegheny's Center for Economic and
 Environmental Development, PennDOT personnel, and community members
 collaborated over the past several years to create a beautiful site that
 showcases important qualities of the community at work and play.
     "Working together, we've endeavored to create art that embodies American
 values of hard work and community spirit. As inspiration, we've had to look no
 farther than our own backyard," said Geffen.
     Using recycled road signs, a great deal of hard work and an earnest
 appreciation for the values and traditions that identify Meadville, they
 created two unique installations of public art at the site.
     The first, Signs & Flowers, is a fanciful garden of 12 large brightly
 colored flowers "planted" at the busiest intersection in Crawford County the
 intersection of Routes 322 and 102 -- often considered the "gateway" to
     In a competition that was open to all Pennsylvania state agencies, Signs &
 Flowers took top honors in the Greening the Gateways category of the 2002
 Pennsylvania Innovation Expo. In making the award, judges cited the unusually
 high level of community involvement and the quality of the resulting public
     Geffen and her students continued their work with a second installation,
 still in progress. It began with a 180-foot sculptural fence, also constructed
 of recycled road signs. Read Between the Signs offers drivers who pass the
 PennDOT property along 322 a colorful reminder of the beauty and environmental
 importance of French Creek, the surrounding landscape and community.
     This summer, the fence grew. The newest 280-foot section presents an
 affectionate view of everyday scenes encountered along Crawford County roads
 including farms, fields, rivers and forests, and references to the local
 Crawford County Fair, Conneaut Lake and Conneaut Lake Park. This new section
 is meant to evoke the colors of autumn.
     Next summer Geffen and a new team of students will fabricate a section
 referencing summer. Eventually, when the full 1200-foot project is completed,
 all four seasons will be presented.
     Allegheny College, a selective liberal arts college of nearly 2,000
 students in Meadville, Pa., is one of ten institutions to participate in
 Project Pericles, a national project of the Eugene Lang Foundation, committed
 to instilling in students a sense of social responsibility and civic concern.

SOURCE Allegheny College