Artist says metal knot reflects Altoona, Midwest
ALTOONA — The artist behind a unique new sculpture in Altoona says it reflects both the city’s tight-knit nature and a defining feature of the Midwest.
Construction on “Woven Lines,” a sculpture by artist Aaron T. Stephan of Portland, Maine, is well underway at the site of a new roundabout at 1st Avenue North and 9th Street Northwest. It’s made from 1,500 feet of metal guardrail that swoops into a 20,000-pound knot and will serve as an anchor of Altoona’s north side.
Recently, the city held a ribbon cutting for the sculpture, a project that started about four years ago and involved surveys and interviews with community members.
“The thing that kept on coming up throughout all of this was, everybody talked about Altoona as this really close-knit, tightly-bonded community,” Stephan said, which became clear to him during his recent time in town to work on the sculpture.
The Des Moines Register reports that when he started designing the piece and doing research into local and state history, Stephan said, his mind kept coming back to one idea: the roadside attraction.
“There’s just something so particularly Midwest about a roadside attraction,” he said: a bombastic object that pulls in people’s attention while blending a personal vision with discovery over time.
The guardrail knot itself becomes a roadside attraction that also speaks to the connectedness and togetherness of Altoona, Stephan said. Local residents were involved in coming up with the concept for the sculpture and building it.
First Avenue is expected to reopen soon. The sculpture is 12 feet high and will be dramatically lit in color at night.
Alex Payne, a member of the city’s arts commission, said that about two or three dozen artists expressed interest in the project. Those involved in selecting a design were drawn to Stephan’s work with street lights, which pushed him to the top of the list.
“When all of saw his rendering of what he wanted to do with this knot, it stood out as this is what we have to do,” Payne said.
Mayor Dean O’Connor said the sculpture is a tremendous addition to Altoona and that city officials are excited to continue developing culture and arts initiatives. The arts commission has more projects underway that are to be announced.
“Woven Lines” cost roughly $217,000 and was funded through the city and an arts grant.
Another new major piece of art in Altoona, the 100th Freedom Rock, was unveiled earlier this month.