Why public art in Lewes is so important

September 8, 2023

I was walking to the Lightship Overfalls parking lot from the Net House and a little boy about 5 or 6 years old was running from the parking lot by the ball field into Canalfront Park. He slipped on the gravel and I said, "ooh," and prepared to pick up my step so I could dust him off. He heard me and looked up and said, "I'm OK," while dusting off his knee and looking toward the canal and center of the park. His reaction of surprise was immediate, and he squealed in delight, "There's a new sculpture!"

He then turned on his heel and ran back into the parking lot to excitedly let his mother, older brother and younger sister know there was a new sculpture. His little sister, with great expectation, ran back into the park with him to see what her brother had discovered. In the process, the same boy noticed the lifesaving boat, as if for the first time, having just fallen in front of it moments before, and exclaimed, "It's a pirate ship!" When his mom and older brother caught up, he shouted to her as they continued to run toward the sculpture, "Isn't it awesome, mom?!" His little sister replied, "Yes, it's awesome!" while engaging with him in examining their new find. Mom affirmed its awesomeness on autopilot and under her breath, hardly looking in his or the sculpture's direction to see what he was alluding to. The two younger kids wanted to stay and explore the sculpture and kept trying to get their mom and older brother to stop or slow down, but their mother called them away as she continued across the park.

So many things about this less-than-two-minute interaction have given me pause to ponder and wonder.

First, this young boy recognized that this type of art installation is commonly called a sculpture.

Secondly, because the sculpture was new to him, he saw, looked at and interpreted the lifesaving boat with new eyes even though he had seen it before, both on the day and on a previous visit.

Finally, and of most impact on me as a bystander, the two youngest members of the family did their best to get their older sibling and mom to also bask in the wonderment of their public art discovery and experience.

His experience (in whatever form that took) of public art is now embedded in that little boy's mind and memories of Canalfront Park and Lewes town forever … and mine too! Wow!

Art on.

Andrea Spuck


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