‘Carrying’ a Cause for the Community

A visitor views all 50 signs from the "Carrying" exhibit in the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.
A visitor views all 50 signs from the "Carrying" exhibit in the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.

Instead of bringing people to the art, members of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art (SDMA) decided it was time to bring art to the people.

In partnership with the Village and Town of New Paltz, the SDMA opened an exhibition in August entitled “Carrying,” made up of 50 signs dispersed throughout the community. Each sign within the exhibit describes the laws governing concealed guns on college campuses within a single state.

“It was conceived as a public art project, as in art that should ideally be seen outside the museum,” said SDMA curator Brian Wallace.

Created by Peekskill artists Curt Belshe and Lise Prown, Wallace said the project interested him because it was both informative and exciting.

So that no local laws were broken during the installation process, Wallace said he was required to first present the idea to a campus committee designed to assess potential public art projects. His next step, he said, was to reach out to Town and Village officials, including Village Mayor Terry Dungan, Village Trustee Shari Osborn and Town of New Paltz Supervisor Toni Hokanson.

“It seemed like more of a challenge if we could actually get the signs out there off the campus and into the real world,” he said, “With the help of [town and village officials] I was able with some letters of support from them to
convince the campus group that this was a project that was worth doing.”

When trying to find locations for the pieces, Hokanson said areas geared toward foot traffic were chosen. Some various places where posts currently sit include the Rail Trail, Town Hall and Hasbrouck Park.

According to Hokanson, sign placement was very specific. She said she was initially asked if the artwork could be installed on street signs.

“That’s not what [they] wanted to do because the New York State Department of
Transportation has the ultimate authority on
every sign post on every road, whether it’s in the town or the village,” she said. “That was a level of bureaucracy I did not recommend getting into.”

As an alternative, Hokanson said she recommended placing the signs on town-owned properties where permission would be obtained more easily.

When combined, all 50 signs create an image of the United States decorated with gun imagery. For co-creator Prown, placing the signs individually rather than together had a profound effect.

“The whole point of using traffic signs was to encapsulate the authority that signs have in our world,” she said. “That was really emphasized when you saw it down in the town or on the Rail Trail.”

Prown said she and her husband Belshe created “Carrying” to shed light on anissue that was very important to them.

With information on each state’s laws researched by the pair and included on each sign, Prown said a major goal of the project was to keep the community informed.

“This is something we were both pretty passionate about because we were both working in education at one time,” she said. “We know how fragile the educational environment can be. It just seemed like something we needed to take on.”

Until Nov. 14, Wallace said anyone interested in viewing the pieces should take a walk through New Paltz. For those wanting to see a combination of all 50 signs, he recommended visiting the SDMA for a complete set on display.

Even though both showings contain the same content, Wallace said each evokes
a different feeling.

“You can have a realization of just how big and complicated the world is,” he said. “The very same artwork that’s made up of 50 signs in a museum, it looms over you. But you get the signs up into the world and you feel really puny. It’s very humbling. It puts the message into perspective.”