Beacon of Well-Being, 2019
Materials: Laser-cut stainless steel, plasma-cut dichroic and stained glass.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), great lawn in front of entrance.
Site-specific commission by Summa Health awarded after a national juried competition.
This joyous, multi-figural sculpture sets a tone for celebration and collaboration as you arrive at the new main entrance of the Summa Health System — Akron Campus.
The large scale of the seven figures, reaching a height of 18 feet, integrates them into the urban landscape and makes them visible in such a way as to invite even casual viewers to follow up to discover what is going on. Within the loose circle, the simplified forms of figures join together to beckon us, playing and dancing, and draw our focus to the uplifted child and the colorful sphere — the beacon of well-being of the title. The artist explains that the group represents all those at Summa who join forces for healing — medical and other staff, patients, families and other caregivers — and the 36-inch sphere, the beacon, represents the combined knowledge, learning, experience, and insight that the community generates to generate well-being.
Stephen Canneto has had a long career as an artist and remembers making objects and images even as a small child (here, he speaks about his trajectory to becoming an artist). He has lived and worked in Columbus since serving in the Air Force and then being employed by the U.S. Steel Corporation. It was in the latter capacity that he discovered his love of working large-scale and mastered the many skills and processes — from budgeting to planning to managing — that working at such scale requires. Many of his recent and current projects are commissions for exterior and interior sculpture or installations that require coordination with industrial fabricators and experience with techniques involving big machinery and equipment.
Most of us automatically think of art as paintings on an easel in a studio, but, like many of the other works in the Summa Collection, Beacon of Well-Being is the product of a number of highly technical processes that have required the artist to learn both traditional and new methods of fabrication and to work with specialists who have access to industrial machinery and equipment, as well as large-scale spaces. This sculpture began as a maquette, a scale-model which represents subject-matter as well as materials and proportions (a video of the maquette for Beacon of Well-Being was submitted as the proposal for the juried competition for this commission). The maquette was then translated into a series of construction drawings of the individual parts of the sculpture, with materials, dimensions, and processes specified, and delivered to the fabricator (most artists have one or two fabricators with whom they collaborate regularly, as they develop a sense of trust and shared goals).
For the figures, the fabricator for Canneto used a plasma-cutting process, to cut the forms from sheets of stainless steel between 1/2” to 5/8” thick. Most of us don’t realize that artwork intended for life outdoors must also meet some basic engineering requirements for strength, durability, wind resistance, and other safety issues (how sharply edges are finished, for example). The surfaces of the flat forms were then protected with a temporary covering while they were shaped, welded together as needed, and then the surfaces were polished to a reflective sheen. The sphere was assembled somewhat differently, from stainless steel pipe cut to provide frame for the stained and dichroic glass panels, which were cut by water-jet. Finally each figure was placed in the envisioned relationship to one another as the artist made final adjustments to the parts and the whole. The entire work was then shipped in pieces up to Akron and installed in late April on the great lawn at Summa Health.
Canneto has created many sculptures and installations for places of healing and places of worship, consonant with his view of art as one way for us to understand one another better. As part of his commitment to social justice, he became involved with incarcerated youth and for sixteen years directed Art for a Child Safe America, an organization designed to assist young people at risk of violence.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
A great overview of work by Stephen Canneto, some in collaboration with Judith Spater Canneto, can be found here. Canneto has done figural and abstract sculpture as well as mobiles and installations featuring dichroic glass in Columbus, Ohio (Mount Carmel Health Systems and Mull-Weithman Architects, as well as multiple public sculptures in downtown Columbus; in the Dayton Children’s Hospital and the Dayton Metro Library; in Rockville, Maryland, and in Coral Springs, Florida.