A few years ago, Ferg Jansen and his wife, Linda, were at a wedding in Indiana when they came upon a man washing windows.
“I remember my wife saying, ‘I don’t think he’s moving.’ So we looked a little closer. We were just in awe of the detail,” Jansen, the past president of the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce, recalled on Wednesday of his first experience with a Seward Johnson sculpture.
It turns out the window washer is one of the 400 lifelike bronze pieces that Johnson has created over the years; they now line Main Streets across the country and world.
The window washer, better known as “Bob,” as noted on his shirt, is called “Nice To See You.” It is one of 32 painted, 800-900-pound bronze sculptures that will be placed at various businesses in town, creating, “Life in Simsbury: A Public Art Trail.”
The sculptures depict people doing ordinary things in life, from a man mowing the lawn — “Hell, Time To Go Fishing” — to a woman gardening and planting bulbs — “Down To Earth.”
The statues were unveiled Wednesday morning at a commuter parking lot along Iron Horse Boulevard as crews used a forklift to move the statues from two tractor-trailers. Most of the statues will be moved to their locations along Hopmeadow Street which runs through the center of town over the next few days, as well as places like Tulmeadow Farm, Westminster School and Rosedale Farms.
Lisa Gray, executive director of the chamber, said that, so far, it has raised $77,000 toward the $90,000 installation. Various businesses sponsor statues, including Abigail’s Grill which is home to a statue of a man with a cigar reading an actual oversized menu from the restaurant. The Simsbury Historical Society is sponsoring a statue of Claude Monet standing in front of a painting showing some of the society’s buildings.
“The whole thing was to make the statues fit the businesses,” said Nick Mason, a director with Simsbury Bank. “It’s designed for people to come walk the town and come visit Simsbury.”
Gray said the goal of the art trail is to encourage more people in town, and out-of-town, to walk along Main Street and support various business in and around town. There will be maps of the trail at each sculpture, and visitors are encouraged to touch, climb on and, of course, take selfies with the art works.
Gray said that the trail isn’t designed to make money and that she hoped it would be a “self-supporting” project. She said the trail is ideal for those who bicycle in the area.
“These statues celebrate the familiar, the people doing normal, everyday things that add enjoyment to our lives and things we take for granted — eating ice cream, sitting on the lawn. It’s designed to be interactive,” she said.
Janis Krissinger of Bloomfield was driving past Main Street taking her dog to an appointment when she did a double-take.
“I thought they were real people,” she said. “I think they are fabulous. There are so many beautiful sculptures. The attention to detail is unbelievable and the colors are so vibrant and gorgeous. I think people will be very excited and happy to see this.”
A grand unveiling of “Embracing Peace,” a sculpture based on Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous Times Square V-J Day photo of a sailor kissing a nurse, will mark the official opening day on May 15 in front of Eno Hall. The sculptures will remain on display until Sept. 15.
"I want people to slow down from their busy life and enjoy the simple pleasures,” Gray said. “This is a great family experience and a way to spend time together looking for these statues and then stopping in for lunch or buying some groceries.”