City’s $435,000 traffic island sculpture nearly identical to $250,000 sculpture

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Niagara Falls is ready to spend $435,000 for a traffic circle art feature that looks a lot like one by he same artist in Virginia Beach (see below).
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This photo-shopped picture shows what the new $435,000 art feature will look like on Rainbow Blvd.

Who is Jeff Laramore? The obscure Midwestern artist selected by the city to design and install a $435,000 piece of sculpture on a deserted Rainbow Boulevard traffic island, directly in front of long shuttered Hotel Niagara, is hardly a household name.

According to his official biography, Laramore is the co-founder of the Indianapolis advertising firm Young & Laramore, an agency that has done business with Procter & Gamble, Goodwill Industries and other well-known companies. He also runs 2nd Globe Studios, a division of Young & Laramore, which he uses to produce and market his sculptures.

“This work is created to make public spaces communicate with people in ways that are relevant to the site, architecture, materials, purpose and subject of the assignment,” his bio reads.

But running an ad agency and making public spaces communicate with people are just part of Laramore’s mission. He also works in the commercial world creating site-specific design elements meant to engage the consumer and communicate the essence of a brand. Laramore refers to the commercial variety of design as “landmark media,” which merges art and commerce.

An Indiana native, Laramore graduated with a B.F.A. in Design from Indianapolis’ Herron School of Art in http://southbuffalonews.com980. While at Herron he earned the President’s Commission on the Handicapped for best poster design award. He began his career as an illustrator before getting into the advertising/sulpture/commercial art business.

“With his ability to see and render he can do all of that and he can do it in layers of color in art or in shapes,” said his friend and business partner David Young.

Young stressed that their agency observes a holistic approach to business and aims for the synthesis of words and images in its designs. This synthesis is obtained by merging art direction, copywriting, account and creative, he said.

In addition to a number of pieces of public art in his native Indianapolis, Laramore has also done installations in Texas and Virginia Beach.

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The Wave in Virginia Beach looks a lot like the art feature Niagara Falls is set to purchase.The Virginia Beach piece, called “The Wave,” is remarkably similar to the untitled piece he’s proposed for Niagara Falls. Both are 38 feet tall and measure about 35 feet across, both are installed on traffic islands and both are constructed of prefabricated stainless steel. The design of each is virtually identical.

 

“The Wave” was installed in October 20http://southbuffalonews.com3.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Virginia Beach and Niagara Falls installations is price, and who will end up footing the bill. In Virginia, “The Wave” cost $250,000 and was funded entirely with private contributions.

In Niagara Falls, the nearly identical knockoff will cost $435,000, all of which will be public money. A total of $335,000 will come from the Niagara River Greenway Commission, the other $http://southbuffalonews.com00,000 split evenly between city and state taxpayers.

Since the Greenway Commission, as it is commonly called, was funded in 2007 by the New York Power Authority, you’ll be paying for the sculpture every time you turn on a light whether you also pay state and local taxes or not.

With top grade stainless steel going for $http://southbuffalonews.com.20 a pound, the http://southbuffalonews.com5,000 pound sculpture will cost $http://southbuffalonews.com8,000 in materials. And, since most of the design work was already used on the Virginia Beach piece, it is difficult to see why its’ Niagara Falls counterpart should be so much more expensive.

Laramore’s Niagara Falls sculpture is meant to commemorate the http://southbuffalonews.com00th anniversary of the obscure http://southbuffalonews.com909 Boundary Waters Treaty, an accord between the U.S. and Canada. Niagara Falls was chosen to co-host the centennial with Niagara Falls, Ont., in 2009. It was perhaps the biggest non-event in recent city history.

Of the proposed Niagara Falls sculpture, the artist said it represented “A ribbon of water surrounded and protected by great nations. One may see the flags representing nations or as analogues to hands allowing a stream of water to flow freely between them, yet shielding it from harm.”

Of the nearly identical piece he did in Virginia Beach, he wrote this: “Virginia Beach is a place where people intersect with the sea, and have for centuries. WAVE is an accessibly abstract sculpture representing those nautical elements, both natural and manmade.”

Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, who doesn’t know much about art but knows what she likes, said that spending $435,000 of other people’s money to decorate a traffic island was a thrill she won’t soon forget.

“Being a part of the process was an honor,” Grandinetti said. “This is extremely exciting, this is our first piece of public art but hopefully not our last.”

Grandinetti’s remarks might have surprised James Earle Fraser, the world famous sculptor who was paid $22,500 in http://southbuffalonews.com927 to execute the bronze and marble stele that sit in front of City Hall, a building the councilwoman visits with some regularity.

Unlike Laramore, Fraser was one of the most renowned artists in the country at the time. In http://southbuffalonews.com9http://southbuffalonews.com3, he designed the Buffalo Nickel for the U.S. Mint, and his bronze “End of the Trail” remains one of the best known and beloved pieces of American sculpture even today, a century after its’ creation.

In April 2009, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster his ventriloquist Tom DeSantis announced a contest. They would commission a monument celebrating the http://southbuffalonews.com00th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Treaty, an obscure document ultimately signed by President Theodore Roosevelt that provided protocols meant to resolve disputes between the United States and Canada having to do with the Great Lakes and associated waterways like the Niagara River.

Last week was at a loss to explain why the project he first announced more than six years ago has taken so long to come to fruition.

“In 2009, we were never successful in completing the project, and now we’re trying to get back on track,” Dyster said.

In addition to the $435,000 sticker price, Laramore’s traffic island sculpture will have to be maintained at an annual cost not yet determined.

Ironically, the lack of routine maintenance at the nearby landmark Hotel Niagara over the past http://southbuffalonews.com5 years has been responsible for making the hotel’s reopening cost prohibitive for the various owners it has had in recent years.

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The Wave in Virginia Beach cost $250,000, about half of what Niagara Falls will pay for a nearly identical art feature.

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