Dabney Sanders: We knew from the early planning stages for the Downtown Greenway that we wanted public art to be a major component of this 4-mile loop. We wanted those pieces of public art to represent city-wide themes that have been important in making Greensboro what it is today. So we have commissioned the first artist to create a cornerstone with the theme of “Motion,” called Gateway of the Open Book. Rhode Island artist Brower Hatcher created that piece, and he collaborated with local artist Frank Russell as well as students from local elementary and high schools represented by the Warnersville neighborhood, the closest neighborhood to Gateway of the Open Book.
Frank Russell: It is always terrific to work with kids. Kids have absolute raw, unedited creativity streaming out of them. It is unfiltered, and they will tell you exactly what they see or feel or think, provided you can get them talking—and you have to get them talking. Barbara brought coffee, and we actually gave them caffeine to elicit a response—with cookies and coffee and some time. I think when people Peter’s age began to see one another participate, it encouraged them to loosen up and participate. Peter was very outspoken and had terrific ideas on paper. Kids are just creative genius. We did not have to make up anything for these iconic images. We created almost 40 images, and we actually used 25 in the sculpture itself. They definitely brought their ‘A’ game. We also played with some found objects that provided the idea of the four quarters of the moon and the sun.
Peter Smith: Me and my friends, we drew pictures of the moon, the sun, the galaxy—all types of stuff. It was the first time that I had worked with scrap metals. We would go through copper, boxes of copper, and pipes. There we started talking about the sculpture—phase one of it.
Frank Russell: We were challenged. We were invited to mention several things about the strengths of Greensboro, our city. And I think education is one of the most powerful things that Greensboro has going. We have so many colleges, so many universities. So, to have it shaped as a book for knowledge and research and all the fun, excellent things that are going to be found in this particular book, from fish to rocket ships to flying saucers to a lot of great things, made sense. These kids gave us these ideas. These kids told us what should be in the cornerstone.
Peter Smith: It makes me feel wonderful because it was something that I took part in with me and my friends, and we did something for the community.