New student sculpture celebrates the art of dance

The en pointe sculpture, located in front of the Dance Theater. Anyone who has visited downtown Saratoga Springs over the past year has seen them—the large sculptures of en pointe ballet shoes, each distinctly decorated. Some 30 of the sculptures are sprinkled throughout the city, and now the Skidmore campus has one of its own, located in front of the Dance Theater.

The sculptures are part of a public art project launched by the National Museum of Dance, located on South Broadway in Saratoga Springs. The project is designed not only to raise funds for the museum, but also to increase the museum’s profile and to celebrate the city’s rich tradition in the arts. Each sculpture was purchased by a sponsor, who worked with individual artists to carry out an agreed-upon design. The artists used a variety of media including paint, mosaic, metal, and collage.

The artwork for the Skidmore-sponsored sculpture was carried out by the college’s Pro-Arts student organization. “When I met with the Pro-Arts leaders to discuss the project, they jumped at the opportunity,” said Bob Kimmerle, Skidmore’s director of community relations. “Members of the club worked as a well-organized team as they proposed designs, created renderings, consulted with faculty, and then set to work applying the art. They did a great job.”

The sculptures start out as a blank slate—a five-foot-high, 90 lb. white fiberglass rendering of a ballet shoe. The Pro-Arts students, led by Madeleine Burkhart ’15, proposed a black and white design with abstract depictions of dancers in motion.

To prepare for the assignment, the student artists worked with Joanne Vella and Deborah Morris of the art faculty The advance work even included a modeling session with dancers, arranged by the Dance Department, giving the artists an opportunity to study dance movement and make sketches. The artists used the sketches to produce stencils, which they then used to spray-paint the sculpture.

“Everyone in Pro-Arts learned a great deal about the process of making public works of art, and we are so thankful to be entrusted with the project,” said Burkhart. “With the collaboration of the community and administration, the Dance Department, Photo Club—which helped document the modeling session—and Pro-Arts, this work truly represents Skidmore's ethos.”

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