Sunday, August 17, 2014

JODY PINTO’S Land Buoy unveiled in Philadelphia.

It was a BEAUTIFUL DAY. Friday, August 15 was the ribbon-cutting of Washington Avenue Park with JODY PINTO’S Land Buoy referencing both ecology and the history of the site.

Jody Pinto, Land Buoy, August 15, 2014, at the
eastern end of the Washington Avenue Park.
The artist is at the top, in turquoise.
       The park was developed by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and is part of a series of projects renewing Philadelphia’s waterfront. It is the original location of Pier 53, an immigration entry point and home to an early Navy shipyard. A path leads the visitor through established trees and a newly planted local habitat, and past spots where one can actually touch the river water. At the furthest end of the walkway, and a clear destination point, is Land Buoy.

       The Washington Avenue Park is in South Philadelphia, at Washington Avenue and Columbus Boulevard, directly behind the Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall. Across the river are the city of Camden and the Battleship New Jersey. It feels like midway between the Benjamin Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges.

       Philadelphia has made enormous progress in reclaiming its waterfront. Adjacent to the park is a walking and bike path -- turn a corner and there are quiet and greenery and stunning river views. There were unconfirmed rumors of bizarre turtle activity and one very handsome cormorant. There’s no question that fish and birds are returning to this stretch of the Delaware.

      Pier 53 was an immigration point from the 1870s until 1915. Remnants of the old foundations that are still in the water extend beyond the new walkway – these grid-patterned wood pilings delineate the scale and shape of the original pier. The more than one million arrivals were mostly eastern and southern European families; some of their descendants still live nearby in the Italian Market neighborhood. Jody Pinto’s father, the artist Angelo Pinto, and this family came to American through Pier 53.

       Land Buoy is fifty-five feet tall, with a rope-inspired spiral staircase that leads up sixteen feet. There’s a solar-powered blue top that will glow at night. The act of walking up the stairs lowers anxiety as it raises expectations: the 360-degree view at the top is breathtaking. If there’s enough wind the spire will move and seem to adjust itself – to be on the stairs when that happens is amazingly invigorating.

       On Friday, when the crowd had gathered, Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter was clearly enjoying himself. It was such a pleasant occasion and everyone was having a good time. He did express concern about that afternoon’s Little League game.  He needn’t have worried: Mo’ne Davis carried the Taney Dragons to victory. It was a wonderful day all around.

Useful links:

An extensive discussion of the Pinto family’s Philadelphia history:

Historical photographs of the Pier: