The Veterans Glass City Skyway is the culmination of hundreds of people — laborers, local citizens, and government officials — making contributions to realize the dream of a drawbridge-free Interstate 280 Maumee River crossing.
The Skyline has been open to Interstate 280 traffic for three years now.
A kinetic sculpture to honor the loss of five tradesmen and recognize those who constructed Toledo’s signature bridge is to be dedicated on April 28. The VGCS tribute committee chose that day because it coincides with National Workers’ Memorial Day.
The gantry truss responsible for construction of the main span collapsed on February 16, 2006. The collapse killed four workers and injured four others. Ironworkers killed were Robert Lipinski Jr., Arden Clark II, Michael Phillips, and Michael Moreau. Local workers injured included Josh Collins of East Toledo and Roger Henneman of Curtice.At around 9:15 a.m. EST on April 19, 2007, carpenter Andrew Burris of Curtice died when the construction platform he was on became detached and fell from the bridge.
“The bridge was a fairly long community effort — a huge project,” said Dan Hernandez, art in public places coordinator for the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo. “A small group of individuals from the community got together to create a memorial or tribute to all of those folks who were on the bridge with particular emphasis toward those iron workers who were killed in the process and the carpenter who died later.
“It’s being completed right now as Tribute Memorial Park with a kind of memorial sculpture that will be the center piece for the park,” Hernandez explained.
The sculpture is designed by Chicago artist Evan Lewis and was selected by public support as the center piece for the memorial to be located in a section of Ravine Park II in the shadow of the Skyway’s defining lighted center pylon.
The sculpture will stand over 40 feet tall and have two large kinetic elements that move.
“There are a couple interesting elements about the sculpture,” Hernandez said. “The sculpture has four columns that come up from the plaza. The columns mimic the tiers on the bridge with a similar-kind of cut to them. The four columns will create a kind of space that is similar to a Greek temple or to Stonehedge.
“The top of the sculpture is going to be a large tower made of stainless steel,” Hernandez continued. “The tower will have two kinetic arms moving freely in the wind, so those moving elements are intended to reflect the constant motion and effort of the workers for those years. You have kind of a remembrance space at the bottom and a reflection of all the effort at the top.”
The concrete columns were originally scheduled to be set up before winter, but because of cold weather that process has been moved to between now and the dedication.
“We’re thinking that towards the end of March there are possibilities that the weather will stay warmer a little bit longer,” Hernandez. “But there are certain things that nature has control over.”
Tribute Park plaza
Ravine Park II was chosen because it is near the location where the first fatal construction accident killed four iron workers.
“There are two unique things about the park and the sculpture,” Hernandez said. “The committee looked at six different sites but they selected it because there was already an ad-hoc memorial that was taking place a little further back on the site,” Hernandez continued.
“There were some crosses there and some different elements that people had already taken the initiative to pay respects to family members who passed away. The park they selected is right there where the accident happened and right in the midst of where people are already paying their respects. They tried to stay in tune with that.
“When you go up to the site, it’s quite interesting the way the landscapers and the artists tried to coordinate the sitting of the sculpture. The way the sculpture sets, when you’re standing in the space below the sculpture you’ll be on access with the main decorative pylon which sits in the middle of the bridge — which creates a real direct one-to-one bridge with you where you are standing, the memorial, and your kind of meditative remembrance-state, and the bridge.”
The plaza will feature a combination of four-by-eight and eight-by-eight inch brick pavers, providing individuals and organizations an opportunity to personalize the memorial. A selection of trees, benches, and lamp posts will complement the sculpture.
“We haven’t put in the bricks yet, because we’re waiting for the sculpture,” Hernandez said. “Right now, the sculpture isn’t up but the plaza is in, and you can see the ribbons where they cross and there are armed bars which are coming out, which is the foundation for the sculpture. When you stand in that space, the impact is quite outstanding.”
The final anticipated cost of the Tribute Park and the sculpture will be between $270,000 and $290,000. Secured funding of $237,000 will leave a remaining balance of about $33,000 to $53,000 to be raised through the brick paver program.
The number of benches, lamp posts and tree plantings will be adjusted to fit the funds raised. All money is being raised through private donations and Hernandez stresses that no public funds are used.
“We’re still trying to raise the money to finish the plaza in the way that it is has been envisioned,” Hernandez said. “The park and sculpture is paid for, but the way we envisioned it with some additional things we still need to raise money for benches and lights — something to dress it up with to make it a little bit more enjoyable place to visit.”
Hernandez believes visitors will be impressed when they see the finished project.
“Some of these spaces are intended for reflection and remembrance, so the artist has really created that space for us. This will create a very strong relationship between someone who is standing between its basin and the bridge,” Hernandez said.
Anyone interested in the ongoing brick paver fundraising can contact Hernandez at 419-254-2787, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the “Art in Public Places” page of the art commission’s website, www.acgt.org.