The art of ‘I Got It!’: How three bronze kids get in to every home gameWritten by Dave Willinger | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Installed in and around the 8-acre baseball campus of Fifth Third Field are works of art and artistic components that give the ballpark its “unique distinction,” in the words of Marc Folk, executive director of The Arts Commission. The inclusion of this public art — from home plate gate flourishes and manhole cover designs to freestanding sculptures — anchors forever the populist sensibility of Toledo’s county-owned and corporate-named ballpark.
‘I Got It!’
Nowhere is that link to the common man (and child) more evident than behind section 101 where, just steps inside the Third Base Gate, a bronze sculpture depicts three boys reaching high in the sky for a home run ball. That artwork is titled “I Got It!”
“It captures the youthful exuberance of so many kids,” said Folk, who added that the sculpture “really connects” with just about everybody who has ever played around with a bat and ball. So many times has Folk seen people posing with that sculpture that, in his estimation, “I Got It!” is the ballpark’s No. 1 photo op. (Sorry, Muddy.)
When the ballpark was being built back in 2002, Folk was in charge of The Arts Commission’s Art in Public Spaces initiative. The Arts Commission set up a partnership between the city, the county and private donors with the goal of incorporating public art into the ballpark, Folk said. With funding in place, a national call to artists went out. Folk does not recall the exact number of entries but said there were about 80 submissions from around the country.
Vermont sculptor Frank C. Gaylord II was one artist whose design, the aforementioned sculpture of the three boys, garnered approval by a review board comprised of area stakeholders.
“The ‘I Got It!’ sculpture is a tribute to your fine city and its rich baseball history,” Gaylord told Toledo Free Press in an email sent by his son-in-law, John Triano. Gaylord, now 89 years old, is renowned for such public artworks as the national Little League monument in Williamsport, Pa., a policeman’s memorial in Jacksonville, Fla., a fireman’s memorial in Eugene, Ore., and the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
After the “I Got It!” sculpture was complete, it was decided in Toledo to install the work on a rotatable mount.
“I thought it was a great idea to put the artwork on a turntable,” Gaylord said. “I create all my sculptures on a turntable but never before has it been displayed on one.”
For years the piece was swiveled to face the sidewalk and street outside the gate when the Hens were not on the field. However, the mechanism has since broken and, for now, the sculpture always faces the field.
The artist also had kind words for Toledo’s Arts Commission when recalling his efforts from more than a decade ago.
“Everyone was fair and polite. They let me create,” Gaylord said. “That was not the case in some of my other commissions.”
Folk, who earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Toledo, shrugged off any praise, saying merely that handling artists is integral to the nature of the The Arts Commission’s business.
It’s the commission’s job to “empower their design,” he said.
Gaylord explained his own evolution as an artist by saying he is “a big fan” of French sculptor Auguste Rodin “and of course Michelangelo. That led me into sculpture.”
Now approaching 90, Gaylord continues to create art.
“I am working on abstract drawings and enjoying every bit of the creative process,” he said. “Art to me means leaving the world a little nicer than when I found it.”
Folk echoed that sentiment in a separate interview.
“I’m very lucky,” he said. “I can work to make my city a better place.”
Folk credits the success of the public art at Fifth Third Field with helping to subsequently bring art to the Huntington Center. But Folk knows introducing art to Fifth Third Field was only a qualified success. Originally, five initiatives were slated for inclusion. The fifth, a mural, never came to fruition. Funding for it dried up in the economic downturn following 9/11, Folk said.
As for one of the designs that did get funded, Gaylord calls his Mud Hens sculpture “one of my best works. Better than Washington, D.C.”
Today, with the ballpark nearly paid off and expansion plans on the drawing board — perhaps the county will decide to re-commission that mural.
Tags: a fireman’s memorial in Eugene, a policeman’s memorial in Jacksonville, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, bronze sculpture, D.C., Fifth Third Field, Fla, French sculptor Auguste Rodin, Huntington Center, Little League monument in Williamsport, Ore., PA, The Arts Commission, Third Base Gate, University of Toledo, Vermont sculptor Frank C. Gaylord II