UPPER WEST SIDE — A dozen aluminum dandelions reaching as high as 12 feet and inspired by street signs will sprout from a local sidewalk starting this week as part of a new public art exhibition.
Passersby on West 97th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, in front of P.S. 163, will see the flowers rise on Thursday. They will remain for the next 11 months, the result of a $6,500 project sponsored by the Department of Transportation.
"Dandelions" sprang from the imagination of Pittsburgh-based artist Carin Mincemoyer, 42, who has designed public artwork in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. This collection marks her New York City debut.
While many Americans see dandelions as an annoying weed, Mincemoyer sees a beautiful, hearty blossom, and her sculpture offers the opportunity to reenvision the flower, she said.
Mincemoyer was also drawn to dandelions because they're a "pioneering species." They establish themselves just about anywhere and pave the way for other plants — a good metaphor for this neighborhood "in transition," with new development projects springing up all around, she said.
"You’ve seen [dandelions] growing in cracks in the sidewalk," Mincemoyer said. "Once they loosen the soil, other species can move in."
The flowers — including three dandelions in their puffball seed-spreading phase, and nine with bright yellow tops — will appear flat, like street signs, and sit atop long poles.
Mincemoyer's work often features the interplay of nature and manmade surroundings. Ranging from 2 to 4 feet wide and from 8 to 12 feet high, the dandelion tops were drawn by the artist based on photographs she took and then cut out of metal.
"I like the idea of taking the street sign concept — a pole with a geometric shape on top...and replacing that with an organic shape," she said.
"Dandelions" will enliven the block, especially during the colder months, Mincemoyer said.
"It is a little drab in the wintertime," she said. "It will really add a nice pop of color."
The Columbus Amsterdam Business Improvement District was recruited by the DOT to serve as the community partner for the project, meaning it will keep an eye on the art and alert the agency if there is any graffiti or harm done to it, BID president Peter Arndtsen said.
Mincemoyer was awarded the site after her application was reviewed by DOT's Art Advisory Committee, a DOT spokeswoman said.
Arndtsen, who has been lobbying for more public art in the area, hopes the artwork will create momentum for similar projects in the future.
"I'm hoping to use 'Dandelions' as a takeoff point," he said.