ArtShapes Stamford's Latest New, Whimiscal Outdoor Sculpture Project

The great screen comedian Gene Wilder lived in Stamford and sometimes gave talks at the Avon Theatre. Thanks to artist Juni Crane, the spirit of Wilder is back.

An artwork honoring Wilder, who died last August, has been installed underneath the marquee of the cinema. Crane's piece is part of ArtShapes, an outdoor sculpture exhibit that is up all summer in downtown Stamford.

Many Stamford residents have stories about meeting Wilder. The closest Crane came was when the movie star came into a store. "I worked as a clerk for a pharmacy in High Ridge Road. ... Gene Wilder was in the store picking up his medication," Crane said. "I wish I could say that I had shared a few words with him like some did, but with my introvert nature I was only able to stare from afar."

For her sculpture, Crane took a 4-foot-tall Fiberglas pyramid and painted it with scenes from Wilder movies: "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "Young Frankenstein" and "See No Evil, Hear No Evil." The fourth face of the pyramid is a black-and-white portrait of Wilder with the caption "Time is a precious thing. Never waste it."

Crane is one of 30 artists who are participating in ArtShapes. In previous years, Stamford Downtown has had outdoor sculpture exhibits of cows, cats, dogs, horses, dinosaurs.

This year, each artist was given a geometric shape to decorate: a 4-foot cube, pyramid or sphere. The designs show a wide array of themes: outer space, books, a jack in the box, a game board, a bluish-green mosaic, an optical illusion, a beehive. There are 39 sculptures in all.

Artworks are scattered throughout the downtown area, with the thickest concentration in the lively retail district on Bedford and Atlantic streets, between Tresser Boulevard and North Street, just a block away from Stamford Town Center mall. The combination of shopping, sidewalk cafés, shady parks, a Saturday farmers market and a kid-friendly scavenger hunt for sculptures make Stamford a nice day trip for families.

Some of the sculptures are placed strategically to reflect their surroundings. Charles Fazzino's "Books, Butterflies and Bugs" triangular piece is placed in front of the town library. A box of crayons depicting all the colors of the rainbow sits in front of a church flying the LGBT-friendly rainbow flag.

Other sculpture placements seem designed to lighten the mood. A beach ball and a sphere depicting a carousel can be seen in full view of a memorial to fallen soldiers. Other placements are kind of funny. A cube depicting Legos is put in front of a bar. A cube depicting a tank full of sharks sits in front of a bank.

A booklet picturing all the shapes, and a map of where to find them, can be picked up in the Stamford Town Center mall, in the library and in many downtown shops.

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