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New one-of-a-kind sculpture garden at FMCC

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Perrella Garden, which opened last month, is near the main entrance of the college on Route 67 in Johnstown.
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– ‘Astraea’s Beam,’ 1991 bronze and granite, by John Van Alstine.
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– ‘Inner View,’ a 2011 marble sculpture by Caroline Ramersdorfer.
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– Near Perrella Garden there’s a 9/11 artifact, a piece of the communications tower from the World Trade Center.
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– The late artist Lawrence Faust gave this sculpture to FMCC.
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– ‘Polo Players’ by Glenville artist Paul Kant.

After six years of planning, Fulton-Montgomery Community College has a new outdoor sculpture garden near its main entrance on Route 67 in the town of Mohawk.

“You can see it from the road. I’ve got a smile on my face every time I pull in and come by this beautiful little space,” said Joel Chapin, the FMCC art professor who came up with the idea.

“It’s a whole new front door to the campus that’s very impressive,” said Justin Swanger, president of FMCC.

Perrella Garden and its five artworks by four artists opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in late September.

The project and a nearby 9/11 memorial cost “just under $250,000,” said Swanger. The projects were funded by private donors through the FMCC College Foundation.

Three of the five sculptures were donated by the artists.

“With college budgets being strained, we really want to make it clear to the public that public money wasn’t being spent on this space, although it’s a wonderful asset to the community,” said Chapin. “It really came out of some very generous donors.”

As college sculpture gardens go, it appears to be unique.

“I’ve been on a lot of community college campuses, and they might have one or two pieces. But as an actual community space – one doesn’t come to mind,” Chapin said.

Perrella Garden is 350 feet long and about 70 feet wide with room to grow and plans to add up to six more sculptures.

“We certainly interested in expanding. We are hoping some artists will donate,” said Swanger.

Chapin, who is director of the college’s Perrella Art Gallery, said the garden is an extension of that gallery.

“It’s a walking path; there are benches so that you can just sit and reflect,” he said.

At one point, the walk turns into a circle, with a zen-like fountain in which water trickles over rocks, set in the center.

John Van Alstine and Caroline Ramersdorfer, internationally exhibiting sculptors who live in Wells, each have a work in the garden.

Paul Kant gifted a 2009 work, “Polo Players.” Kant graduated from Niskayuna High School in 1959 and was a teacher at his alma mater for 33 years until his retirement in 1993. His studio, Owl Creek, is in Glenville.

The two other works were gifted by the late Lawrence Faust, an artist who lived in Northville and had a sculpture park there in the 1980s and 1990s.

“He was a very interesting outsider artist. He did a lot of found art pieces that were very whimsical,” Chapin said.

Across a small parking lot from Perrella Garden, in its own circular area, is the college’s 9/11 memorial, which was installed in 2015.

“We managed to get a piece of the antenna off the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Not a lot of institutions could take anything that large. It’s really remarkable. It’s very sculptural, even though it’s an artifact,” said Chapin.

Through Nov. 10, the Perrella Gallery is presenting “Through a Laborer’s Eyes: Photos by Louis Pabon,” an exhibit about 9/11. Pabon, a 2015 FMCC graduate, took the 120 photographs while working at Ground Zero for seven months after the terrorist attack.

Perrella Garden is just the beginning of what Chapin envisions as a campus dotted with sculpture.

“I could see a hundred plus pieces on this campus. We have a lot of acreage,” he said.

For example, the plan for Allen House, a new building that will house the president’s house, FMCC College Foundation and conference/meeting rooms, would include space for more outdoor artwork.

Perrella Garden was built as a “commmunity space that you could come, sit, contemplate, walk around,” Chapin said.

“Already students sit out on the benches, by the fountain. I’ve had classes out there for drawing,” he said.

Art and electrical technology students are currently working together on a 12-foot-tall steel sculpture that will be activated by solar power.

Chapin also envisions a regional sculpture exhibit on campus.

“It took a very uninteresting part of campus and just activated it. It’s just a nice place to go.”

Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197, [email protected] or @bjorngazette on Twitter.

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