Last Monday, only four days before its official opening, the Pierpont Gallery was buzzing with activity.
Silvia Davis was outside busily carving her sculpture. Wood chips blew in the wind and crackled under the feet of passers-by.Richard Johnston was manning a spray gun as he coated his newly installed sculptured fence.
Bonnie Phillips was supervising the hustle and bustle inside the gallery, where workers cleaned and painted the rooms and hung new artworks.
There were still dozens of projects to complete before the gallery's big opening on Friday, but Phillips didn't appear flustered. As co-owner of the Phillips Gallery, she has grown accustomed to meeting deadlines. Down deep, she felt confident that all would be ready for the carefully planned and long-awaited opening.
Festivities include a parade from the Phillips Gallery to the Pierpont Gallery from 5 to 6 p.m., artists' receptions from 6 to 9 p.m., and a dance performance by A Company of Four at 9 p.m.
The Pierpont Gallery has long been a dream of Denis and Bonnie Phillips. And from the start, they wanted to make it special.
They knew that in other parts of the country, artists were being commissioned at the onset of a building project to work alongside architects - and with amazing results.
They also knew that without collaboration, a sculpture is often plopped in front of a building. Dwarfed by the architecture, it struggles for an identity; it seems unable to compete with the mass of the building.
So even before groundbreaking ceremonies took place seven months ago, Denis and Bonnie Phillips had rounded up artists, an architect, a builder, and others to set up plans for cooperative efforts.
As a result, their sculptured courtyard shows how art can be integrated effectively with architecture - in line, color, theme, etc.
Johnston's imposing metal sculpture hovers over the courtyard, while its shapes are repeated in his fence that borders it. The color of both sculpture and fence repeats the gray exterior of the building.
In marked contrast to that dominant gray is Davis' fascinating sculptured railing. The motifs she chose tie in beautifully with the original use of the building - engineering. In fact, the words "General Engineering" still decorate the front facade.
Denis and Bonnie Phillips have made a concerted effort to renovate and restore this building, rather than destroy its historical charm.
In this collaborative process, other artists besides Johnston and Davis have been most helpful. Stephen Goldsmith, director of Artspace, worked with Johnston as principal artists responsible for the creation and design of the courtyard. Willy Littig provided glass sculptures for windows and sidewalk. Through stills and video, photographer Barbara Richards docu-mented the collaboration process. Ann Waters and Colleen Katz helped with literary documentation, and Mary Watson with the catalog.
Max Smith, who also worked with artists on the Artspace Project, took over architectural duties, while Gary Evershed was the contractor.
Actually, the building houses two new galleries: the Pierpont Gallery on the second level and the Courtyard Gallery in the basement. Both galleries are owned and operated by Denis and Bonnie Phillips.
The inaugural exhibit in the Pierpont Gallery is "Local Motion," a kinetic art show curated by Renee Fitzpatrick of the Phillips Gallery. It features works by more than 20 Phillips Gallery regulars including Allen Bishop, Larry Elsner, John Hess and Bri Matheson.
When I took a sneak preview of the gallery early this week, I was impressed by several works that had already been installed, including Davis' wood sculpture "Hard Boiled," Hess' weavings, and mobiles by Elsner and Matheson.
The Courtyard Gallery can be entered by descending the steps into the sculptured courtyard and through the east door. The first show, entitled "Lost Landscapes," explores lost urban and natural landscapes through the mediums of photography, multiple-image prints and fine crafts.
A few of the artists participating in this show include Richard Burton, Royden Card, Jeni Christensen, Wayne Kimball, Craig Law, Rodger Newbold, Richards, Trevor Southey, John Telford and Blanche Wilson.
These two shows continue through July 9. Hours for the Pierpont and Courtyard Galleries are 10-6 Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Both galleries are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Although the building project is basically completed, the efforts at the Pierpont Gallery will hopefully inspire other local artists and architects to work together. Successful collaboration can enhance rather than diminish the work of both professions.