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Rye’s New Summertime Residents

Artist Allison Belolan at work on her butterfly sculpture (photo courtesy of Rye Arts Center)

Rye is about to get 36 special summertime residents. Butterfly sculptures, ranging in size from dinner plates to dinner tables, will be installed throughout the city’s Village Green in mid-June and remain on display until September. 

The new public art exhibition, Rye’s Above, is a collaboration between The Rye Arts Center and The Rotary Club of Rye. Modeled after a successful fundraising program in Colorado Springs called FLIGHT, it is meant to uplift the community through the arts while also supporting local education programs. When Sue Autry, a Rye resident and community volunteer who used to live in Colorado Springs and was familiar with FLIGHT’s success and popularity, suggested doing something similar in Rye, both the Arts Center and the Rotary Club jumped at the idea. 

Plans for the program predate the pandemic, but the symbolism of the sculptures is almost eerily timely. Rye Arts Center’s Executive Director Adam Levi says: “As we started to talk about the butterflies, we realized there was a lot of synergy with what’s happening right now, with a rebirth and coming out of a cocoon and creating something beautiful… It made a lot of sense to us.”

Sculpture design by Anna Saura (photo courtesy of Rye Arts Center)

Through a competitive submission process, 33 professional artists were chosen to transform 36 aluminum alloy and steel sculptures, which range from five to 50 pounds, into original works of art. The artists, hailing from New Paltz down to Hell’s Kitchen, have been working on their butterflies’ transformations since April. 

The Arts Center created a shared but safe studio space, nicknamed “the butterfly studio,” which offered the local artists a much-needed place to connect and share materials. 

Richela Fabian Morgan, a Rye’sAbove artist and staff member at The Rye Arts Center, says that preparing for the exhibition has been a powerful antidote to the loneliness and isolation of the past year.  

She explains: “As an artist, it’s been really hard… and now I feel like I finally get to share something that is not just a screen. I get to share something that people will actually touch and feel and be drawn to when they see it on the street.”

The program has been a positive experience, not only for the artists but for the organizations involved as well. 

Richard Sgaglio from The Rotary Club of Rye says: “It’s been a really enjoyable, seamless process. We’re extremely excited and hopeful.” Those at The Rye Arts Center agree. They are passionate about public art, knowing that it plays an important role in community building, especially in uncertain times. “Public art gives us a reason to go out,” Morgan says. “It just makes the world better.”

The program will culminate in a live auction in the fall, where the sculptures will be sold to the highest bidders. Net proceeds will be split between The Rye Arts Center and The Rotary Club of Rye and will be used for educational programs and scholarships for local students in need. 

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