By Stephen Witt
The artist for the sculpture to serve as the Gateway to Brooklyn has been tentatively selected, this newspaper has learned. Williamsburg-based sculptor Brian Tolle was picked from a short list of six artists through a selection process. His winning sculpture idea, subject to revision, consists of a translucent piece based on the Daniel Chester French sculptures that once graced both sides of the Brooklyn end of the Manhattan Bridge, according to Community Board 2 District Manager Rob Perris. Chester French is most famous for doing the seated Lincoln sculpture at the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC. Perris was on the sculpture selection panel in an advisory capacity. The original Chester French granite sculptures have since been moved and now flank the entrance to the Brooklyn Museum. The sculptures feature two female figures – one representing Brooklyn and the other Manhattan – with allegorical features at their feet. The allegorical features at the feet of the figure representing Brooklyn include a young boy reading, a church and a lyre. Perris said the translucent casts of the figures would be mounted on the ends of two arms, which are on the end of a pole, and will rotate and light up at night. The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), which spearheaded the selection process said the Gateway sculpture project went through the standard public process that all Percent for Art projects undergo. Approximately 35-40 artists were selected for consideration for the project, and presented to a panel for review. The selection panel is comprised of voting and advisory members. Voting members included representatives from DCA, the Department of Transportation, City Planning and the Economic Development Corporation as well as 3 outside art professionals. Advisory panel members included the MetroTech BID, the Downtown Business Partnership, the Art Commission, members of the CB 2, a representative from councilmember’s David Yassky’s office and a representative from the Borough President’s office. Perris said he did not know how much Tolle will make for the commission, but noted the entire sculpture project was budgeted for $300,000. Tolle was born in 1964 in Queens, and currently lives and works in Williamsburg. He attended Parsons School of Design, New York and SUNY at Albany, and received his MFA from Yale University School of Art. Among his more well-known works is the Irish Hunger Memorial (2002), located at Vecsey Street in Battery Park City. The memorial simulates a rural Irish landscape by means of a sloping grassy expanse and an abandoned cottage. Tolle refused comment and an assistant at his gallery said he is unable to speak about the commission for now. The gateway to Brooklyn sculpture is part of the city’s plan in conjunction with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s (DBP) to form a grand entrance into Brooklyn along the Flatbush corridor from Tillary Street going south to Hanson Place. As such the DBP also hired the Brooklyn-based Donna Walcavage firm to design the streetscape. Preliminary designs call for a wide four-block median strip for the thoroughfare, on which the sculpture will be placed at Tillary Street, and will include trees and other plantings going south. The streetscape will also see the sidewalks widened and some parking eliminated.