Today’s the grand opening of the “Art & Soles Gallery,” a display of the public art project organized earlier this year by the Springfield Business Improvement District. “Art & Soles” features about 20 giant fiberglass sneakers (an homage to the city’s distinction as the birthplace of basketball), decorated by Valley artists.
The sneakers, which had been displayed throughout the downtown since August, are now all collected at 1391 Main St. (In keeping with a larger effort to connect arts development and economic development in the city, the temporary gallery is in a now-vacant building, in space donated by owner Glenn Edwards.) The gallery will be open through the holiday season, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays), and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The space also includes a shop with Springfield-themed goodies.
Like any endeavor where art meets commerce, the Art & Soles program has not been without its bumpy moments—namely, a tussle over the decision of one artist, Robert Markey, to include an image of a not-yet-nude stripper on the sole of his sneaker, called “Wanna Dance?” (The top of the sneaker features a gymnast, a break dancer and other decidedly less provocative images.) The SBID spray-painted out the pole dancer, without first notifying Markey—a move that angered the artist, who, in an interview with the Republican, called it “censorship of public art.
“That happens in communist China. But, Springfield?” Markey added.
In response, the BID’s Gina Beavers said the exhibit was supposed to be a “family friendly” event. “We wish we had time to let Bob in on the decision, but there just wasn’t time,” she told Republican reporter Stephanie Barry.
The sneakers originally were to have been auctioned off last month, with the proceeds going to support local arts programs. The auction was postponed, however; according to an announcement from the BID, “many of the people who had expressed interest in bidding on a sneaker were unable to attend the event.” It’s hoped that the Art & Soles gallery will generate interest from more potential buyers, although a new auction date has yet to be set.
In the meantime, a gallery of all the sneakers can be seen at www.artandsolesspringfield.com—although really, don’t you want to check them out in person instead?