There may be artists who do not like anyone peering over their shoulder while they work, but Michael Alfano of Hopkinton is not one of them.
Perhaps that is why he has set up in one of the most public spaces possible, the oversized picture window of an empty storefront in the Westborough Shopping Center, in order to give onlookers the best possible view of his creative process. He is working on a larger-than-life sculpture of a young man on a bicycle, commissioned to honor the late Matthew Scarpati, a 19-year-old who was killed in 2009 by a drunk driver on Long Island in New York.
Alfano has long believed that artists should work as close to their audience as possible.
In his earlier days, Alfano studied sculpture as a classical art form. But at Boston University, influenced by professor emeritus Lloyd Lillie, he began to think more about what he explained as “moving classical sculpture into the modern world in ways that it can be accessible to people.”
Alfano said art should be something viewers can touch and interact with, particularly in public spaces. He cited Lillie’s statue of Mayor James Michael Curley in Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
“He was sculpted sitting on a bench. You can sit down next to him, put your arm around him, talk to him. I try to work within that spirit of democracy where we’re all on the same plane,” Alfano said.
That spirit of keeping art among the people attracted an unexpected following after Alfano’s girlfriend was killed by a drunk driver. Bereaved, he created a work in her honor that was housed for a time at a courthouse in Mineola, N.Y., until, according to Alfano, the district attorney lobbied to have it removed, saying it would influence juries in drunken-driving cases.
The concept of what he had done caught the attention of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, among other groups, and so when Miles for Matt Foundation organizers were looking for a sculptor to honor Scarpati’s memory, they found their way to Alfano.
But Alfano’s work will not only be displayed in a public area after its completion, it is being created in view of the public at the shopping center at Lyman Street and Route 9 in Westborough.
It was Ed Turner’s idea, Alfano said. Owner of a frame shop in the plaza, Turner noticed the unfortunate number of empty stores around him and saw it as an opportunity.
“He’s great about connecting the community with its artists,” Alfano said. “When he approached me with the idea of not only exhibiting a piece in a storefront but actually creating this sculpture live, I saw it as another way to use the concept of the public art to demystify the artist’s process.”
For the past several weeks, Alfano has been spending his daylight hours working in the storefront. Although the figure appears to be well-formed at this point, Alfano still has a lot of detail work to do on the clay component of the process, he said. Once the figure is finished, it will be transported to a foundry in Chelsea to be cast in bronze.
He hopes to have the sculpture installed by early fall in its permanent home, Cedar Creek Park in Seaford, N.Y., on the south side of Long Island.
Alfano expects to be sculpting in the Westborough storefront until at least the middle of this month. While the public can stop by to watch Alfano at work anytime, he will hold a special drop-in session on June 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in which he will be discussing his work with visitors.
ART ALL AROUND: Sixth- and seventh-graders from the Ephraim Curtis Middle School in Sudbury have been working in teams to create two-dimensional, pixilated reproductions of famous works of art with Lego bricks as part of an arts curriculum that revolves around the theme of toys. A special reception to view their work will be held Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Goodnow Library, 21 Concord St. in Sudbury, during which large-format photographs will be auctioned as a fund-raiser for One Fund Boston, before the exhibit is relocated to Boston Children’s Hospital. For more details, call 978-443-1035.
Contemporary Arts International, an unusual indoor-outdoor sculpture space at 68 Quarry Road in Acton, will open its new gallery show, “John M. Weidman Retrospective — A Life of Sculpture,” with a public reception Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. The show will run through Aug. 21; visitors are welcome daily by appointment. For more information, call 617-699-6401 or go to www.contemporaryartsinternational.org.
The Friends of the Littleton Council on Aging will present artworks by local seniors in an exhibition opening Sunday and continuing through June 7 in the Council on Aging offices, Room 233 at 33 Shattuck St. A reception will be held on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.
REVELRY TONIGHT: The Secondary Chorus at the Perkins School for the Blind joins forces with the Revels ensemble in their annual “Celebration of the Spring’’ performance at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on the school’s campus at 175 North Beacon St. in Watertown.
TIMELY DRAMA: Lexington’s Munroe Saturday Nights arts series will finish its season with a staged reading of “To Reach the Golden Door,” a new musical written by Boston-area playwright Joyce Van Dyke, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Community of Christ, 1386 Massachusetts Ave. in Lexington.
The contemporary story focuses on an Armenian-American woman who, with her Italian-American husband, operates a failing Armenian bakery and store in a Boston neighborhood in transition. Over the course of Memorial Day, they encounter neighbors from Mexico, China, and Syria, and others whose families come from Eastern Europe, Ireland, and the Caribbean.
The performance is suitable for adults and children in fourth grade and older. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.
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