Saratoga artist Shawn Banner took his training to another level with his latest fiberglass piece on display.
The "En Pointe!" sculpture project, which displays 24 five-foot-tall ballet slippers in and around downtown Saratoga Springs, is a treat for ballet enthusiasts and art fans alike.
Although not a native Saratogian, Banner has spent enough of his life in Saratoga to consider himself a local. His family moved to the area as he was finishing high school after his mother got at job at Skidmore College. Banner spent college vacations working at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and attended New York City Ballet performances with his mother, who was a press reporter for the ballet at the time.
After graduating from Oberlin University in Ohio, he left for New York City, where he attended the Fashion Institute of Technology to study illustration. While there, he married a Saratogian and the two decided to move their family back "home" 15 years ago.
Banner happened upon the National Museum of Dance's call for artists only a few weeks before the due date, but his deep roots in the New York City Ballet demanded he submit an application. Ultimately, Banner submitted three separate ideas, and of the three, his design based on Jerome Robbins' "The Concert" was selected.
"If you know the New York City Ballet repertoire, you'll make the connection. But if not, it just looks like a visual concert for the eyes," Banner said.
His toe shoe portrays the final scene of the dance, in which the ballerinas turn into butterflies and the pianist pulls a net from his piano, chasing them offstage. It utilizes three-dimensional butterflies, as well, which gently flutter in the wind.
Banner wanted to pay special tribute to the region by including butterflies native to the area, namely the endangered Karner blue.
"I don't know if anyone who see's them will know or care, but I care," he said.
His sponsors, Jim Lavigne and Mary Gavin, were looking for a garden-themed piece to be placed in the Wesley Nursing Home garden and felt the butterflies were a perfect fit.
For Banner, Wesley was also a perfect fit; his father spent his last 10 years in "really great care" at the home.
Banner has designed horse sculptures for the city, but he said he prefers the shoes .
"The shoe is much easier, logistically speaking. I thought to myself, 'Oh, well if I can get myself around the legs of a horse, I can do a shoe,' but it was a little trickier than I thought," he said.
Banner is excited to begin work on another sculpture as part of the slew of additional shoes set to debut this fall. The ballet slipper project is extremely important to Banner, especially as an active member of the community he once again calls home.
"I love the idea of public art. It's really important to put beautiful things out for the public to see. The town needs to know more about the dance and orchestra programs, and it's a wonderful idea to give downtown a presence for the ballet, the dance museum and SPAC," he said.