Hard as it is to hide a 50-foot-tall, orange-red steel dinosaur, Hartford managed. Alexander Calder's wonderful "Stegosaurus," the tallest and arguably Hartford's finest piece of 20th-century outdoor sculpture, has for several years been hiding behind overgrown trees on the Burr Mall, between city hall and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
But no more. "Stegosaurus," whose color had deepened to a dullish red over the years, has been repainted in the more orange hue that Mr. Calder intended. Trees in the mall have been trimmed, so it is again possible for passers-by to see the great impressionistic beast. Workers are now replacing the crumbled slate sidewalks with a more durable granite and installing new lighting.
It's part of an almost $1 million renovation of the mall, and it should greatly improve this sometimes controversial public space.
The mall was created, and the sculpture commissioned, by the Ella Burr McManus Trust in honor of Mrs. McManus' father, Alfred E. Burr, a 19th-century publisher of the late and lamented Hartford Times. It took decades to get the project moving. The mall was dedicated in 1969 and the Calder installed in 1973. A renovation in the early 1990s caused considerable uproar.
This renovation, which should be completed in late June, isn't a redesign as much as an improvement to what's there. The walkways will be a big help. Real grass on the east and west sides of the mall, where there were scruffy patches of weeds, will make a difference. So will good lighting.
The trustees are thinking about installing benches and looking for additional pieces of sculpture. Let's endorse both ideas. The mall has never had comfortable places to sit. Since so much effort is going into making the park more inviting, why not give people a place to relax and enjoy it? Additional sculpture will enhance the site, as it has the riverfront.
Now, if we can just get something going with the Hartford Times building across Prospect Street, the spirit of Mr. Burr can rest in peace, in the happy realm where former newspeople go.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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