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Free Library Installs Dynamic Abstract Banners Designed by Alexander Calder
Banners, created in 1976, spent years in storage before being restored for enjoyment by the public
PHILADELPHIA January 28, 2020—Two soaring, colorful banners, created by celebrated American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976), are now on display in the Parkway Central Library’s new Robert and Eileen Kennedy Heim Center for Cultural and Civic Engagement.
The Bicentennial Banners were commissioned by renowned real-estate developer and art collector Jack L. Wolgin in partial fulfillment of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art Program during the creation of Centre Square in 1976. The series of eight unique, cotton canvas banners were originally created by Calder as gouache paintings, and then enlarged and executed as applique banners by fiber artist Sheila Hicks in her Paris studio.
Displayed in Centre Square until the 1980s, the banners spent years in storage before their rediscovery in the early 2000s. Four of the banners were showcased in the Grand Lobby of Parkway Central in 2009, when they were loaned for display by the then-owner. The banners were gifted anonymously to the Free Library in 2018.
Most appropriately, The Bicentennial Banners will join additional works by Calder, his father (Alexander Stirling Calder), and his grandfather (Alexander Milne Calder) that are prominently displayed along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“The Free Library was delighted to receive The Bicentennial Banners and to display them once again for the public to enjoy. We are honored to be a part of the ongoing story of these beautiful works by Alexander Calder, which were created as public art and which will continue their life as such at Parkway Central,” said Free Library of Philadelphia President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon. “Displaying The Bicentennial Banners upholds the Free Library’s mission to inspire curiosity as they will not only invite viewing but will also serve as the catalyst for innovative public programming that will engage our customers with the art.”
The Bicentennial Banners—which are between 6 and 8 feet wide and range from 18 feet 2 inches to 26 feet 8 inches long—are marked by colorful and abstract compositions.
Conservation of the remaining six banners is underway, and plans are being developed for the installation of additional banners at Parkway Central later this spring. The Free Library is planning a series of public programs—including educational programs and art workshops for children and adults—to commemorate the installation of The Bicentennial Banners later in 2020.
Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation. Other generous contributors to this project include the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, the Edna W. Andrade Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation, and private donors.
Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850