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Artist Eto Otitigbe Wins Sculpture Commission in Mount Vernon

A monumental sculpture that recognizes how harmony and balance can be achieved even in times of change will soon sit prominently in Mount Vernon. The public artwork, which plays with themes of transformation, is a result of a site-specific commission for the highly visible plaza at 42 Broad Street West, a new luxury rental apartment complex at the corner of Broad Street and Fleetwood Avenue. 

While more than 50 artists submitted proposals, Brooklyn artist Eto Otitigbe was announced the winner by ArtsWestchester and 42 Broad, which is a joint venture of Alexander Development Group, The Bluestone Organization and institutional investors advised by J.P. Morgan Asset Management. 

Otitigbe is a polymedia artist whose interdisciplinary practice lies at the intersections of race, power and technology. On the inspiration behind this commissioned work, the artist says: “Peaceful Journey is inspired by various points of interest, such as architecture, physics and hip-hop music… Fleetwood as a community is experiencing change as new development projects like this one attract people to Mount Vernon… Personally, I was experiencing a transition [when this work was conceptualized] as well, along with the joys and challenges of being a new father. So I wanted to make something to represent a sense of harmony and balance amidst change.”

The title of the sculpture is borrowed from the title of a song and album by rapper Heavy D, a native of Mount Vernon.  The concept of the artwork has ties not only to Westchester and pop culture, but also hits home for Otitigbe on a personal level. The artist, explaining that the song “offers a thoughtful and complex picture of the lives of Black and Brown people [living] in places like Mount Vernon, Bronx or Los Angeles,” says that the performer’s music was transformative for him in his youth. He elaborates: “This sculpture offers me a chance to pay tribute to Heavy D, R&B and hip-hop culture, all of which had an immense influence on me as I navigated my youth. It’s a way-mark for our personal journeys.”

Mark Alexander, principal of 42 Broad, says: “Public art is integral to our development philosophy.  In this particular project, we are allocating a sizable budget for highly visible art that will help to create a memorable place, promote community pride and raise the level of aesthetics and energy in the city.” 

Janet T. Langsam, ArtsWestchester CEO and public art partner to the project, adds: “Investment in public art is an investment in a community, because signature artwork like this helps to create more livable, creative and enjoyable communities.” 

The sculpture will be visible to thousands of passersby every day. 

A version of this article first appeared in the August issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.

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