AMSTERDAM – Travelers driving east on Route 5 into the city from now on will be greeted by an eye-catching, swirling, steel sculpture called DreamRiver built onto the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Pedestrian Bridge.
Artist Dimitar Lukanov designed the 32-foot-high stainless steel sculpture as the final piece in his “trilogy of sculptures”, each built on a different part of the MVGOP Bridge. DreamRiver is located on the northern side of the bridge, a bronze sculpture titled “Mother and Child at the Mohawk River” is located in the middle, and “Entrance to Now” is a gateway-like sculpture built on the southern side of the bridge.
“They’re very, very different pieces, because they convey different messages,” Lukanov said. “DreamRiver sits in the middle of Amsterdam now. We are on the north bank. We are ground zero for the rejuvenation and the bringing back to life of the downtown area of the city.”
Lukanov’s design was the winning proposal for a $400,000 art project for the bridge administered by the Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency. The funding for the sculptures came from $650,000 in grants from the New York Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and the Department of Transportation, each providing $325,000. The remaining $250,000 from the grants is being used to construct a bathroom facility for the public on the bridge and waterfront.
Lukanov started work on the sculptures in 2017. He said each of the three sculptures presented unique challenges.
“Every piece of public art is first and most of all a challenge, it has to be unique,” Lukanov said. “It has to tell a story like nothing else. This is a message for the future.”
Lukanov said his original designs for the sculptures were smaller than the final pieces. For DreamRiver he originally envisioned a 20-foot piece, but ultimately extended it.
“In all of these three projects, I have done them 50 percent larger than my contract with the city of Amsterdam,” he said.
He said his choice of color, a kind of bright teal, was important to the impact he wants DreamRiver to make.
“Just like poetry, there’s more spaces in between that matter. It’s alive,” Lukanov said. “The color, which I actually personally mixed, is neither blue nor green, it changes with passage of time, and with the seasons.”
“The idea was to have a color that would be warm in our winters and cool in our summers, a breathless piece, collaborating with the sky, the wind, the clouds,” Lukanov said. “There’s no limit to it. This is architecture.
Lukanov said DreamRiver is meant to symbolize both the revitalization of Amsterdam, and the history of the Erie Canal as a vital artery of commerce. He said the piece is meant to reflect the genius of America, to contrast with some aspects of the present moment, and to stand the test of time.
“We live in times where a vulgar gesture on the Internet makes a person a star. This is anything but. This is a tedious, colossal, physical and mental labor. Every inch of this sculpture goes through my hands. It’s a distribution of weight without the space of error,” Lukanov said. “I created her in a way that she can withstand the winds, which we all know with the changes of weather can be pretty dramatic in our area.”