Mei-Ling Hom, a Philadelphia artist whose works often draw on her Chinese family background and her status as a woman, has been chosen to create “The Women’s Walkway Project,” the final element of the Fleisher Art Memorial’s capital campaign to make its spaces more useful and accessible. The “Women’s Walkway” will connect the buildings of the Fleisher campus leading from the historic buildings on the 700 block of Catharine Street to its newest building on the 700 block of Christian Street., via the Fleisher parking lot.
Hom’s design - “CLOUD PATH” - focuses on a six-foot-wide walkway running along the eastern edge of the parking lot, delineating it by white cast concrete tiles arranged in the patterned meanderings of a stylized repeating cloud design, set into serpentine green concrete pavers. According to Hom, the cloud is the Chinese symbol for luck and, when found in a repeated motif, symbolizes never ending fortune.
“But the most appropriate symbolism of clouds in Chinese culture, “she said, “is their role as the vehicles for goddesses, particularly Xi Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the West and the Goddess of Immortality. What better ways to ensure long and productive careers to Fleisher artists than to have them travel the cloud path?”
A relief of the same cloud pattern will also be impressed into a green concrete 30-inch-high wall, to replace the old stucco wall and fences on the east side of the parking lot. The new wall will contain spaces to accommodate the names of donors and for women who will be acknowledged for their work in the arts. Above the concrete lower wall, perforated aluminum will complete the fence to reach 8.5 feet high, capped by a lighting fixture, running its length. Hom noted that this aluminum screen could also serve as an outdoor exhibition space for Fleisher-produced art displays, three-dimensional works, and project space installations, as well as a mounting space for banners announcing art exhibitions at Fleisher.
Both the wall’s upper lighting fixture and an underground heat-coil system to insure an ice-free footpath in the winter could be powered by the installation of solar panels on the roof of the Christian Street building, she noted.
Hom’s “Cloud Path” proposal was created with technical advice from architect Charles Evers.
The announcement of the choice of Hom to create the Women’s Walkway was announced by Thora Jacobson, Fleisher’s Director and a member of the project’s selection panel, commending it as an “extraordinarily simple and elegant proposal.” Jacobson noted that Hom was chosen from an original group of 24 women artists. “We were also impressed with the other finalists’ proposal – a team effort by artist Jennie Shanker and landscape architect Anna Forrester – and hope we can incorporate some of their historical research and concepts into other future projects at Fleisher.”
In developing their ideas, the artists were charged with creating a project that will honor the women who have been part of Fleisher’s history, both as artists, teachers, and leaders, as well as respecting the time-honored ways in which women work, as connectors, protectors, and mentors. Finally, the Walkway design should also connect the elements of Fleisher’s programs: students going to and from classes, and exhibitions and programs that have engaged artists and the community in a conversation that has continued for 107 years.
The selection committee was comprised of Fleisher’s Women’s Work Committee members: Allison Moore, Chairperson; Diane Burko, Gabriele Lee, Constance Moore, and Liz Price. Also serving on the selection committee were independent curator Marsha Moss, who served as the committee’s chair; capital projects architect David A. Schultz of DAS Architects; and Fleisher’s Director, Thora Jacobson.
Since it was formed three years ago, Fleisher’s Women’s Work Committee has raised nearly $135,000 for Fleisher’s capital campaign and this project. The Women’s Work Committee was also responsible for this past year’s “Dear Fleisher,” an exhibition of postcard-sized original artworks by local artists, which could be purchased for $50 each by the public who attended the show.
An Associate Professor of Art at Community College of Philadelphia, Hom is currently working on an installation for the lobby of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., scheduled to open in September 2005. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including the Neuberger Museum in New York, Eastlink Gallery in Shanghai, China; Silpakor University Gallery in Bangkok, Thailand; the Alternative Museum in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. One of her most visible works in Philadelphia is “China Wedge,” a massing of Asian porcelain bowls and soup spoons in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.