Mammoths on the Lake’ Community Day

Event to provide life-size historic reminder

“We encourage residents and visitors to attend the event to celebrate the arts, share their memories and participate in the planning for the public art trail.”

By Jean Shanley
July 11, 2015

CONNEAUT LAKE — If all goes according to plan, a life-size woolly mammoth structure will be on Fireman’s Beach — hopefully by the end of summer.

Allegheny College Professor Amara Geffen, who is working with the Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee (CLCDC), received approval at a recent meeting of Conneaut Lake Borough Council to use Fireman’s Beach on July 18 at noon to host a “Mammoths on the Lake” Community Day at the beach.

The event will be another in a series of community days sponsored by Conneaut Lake Borough in collaboration with CLCDC and the Arts and Environment Initiative at Allegheny College.

Geffen told council that plans are to erect the life-size woolly mammoth at the beach in the area of the former R Playground. The animal was chosen in recognition of the fact that mammoth bones were discovered in 1958 by local men constructing a dock. Geffen said it will be life-size but will be constructed so as to not block anyone’s view of the beach itself. The interior will be wooden and the external will be natural materials, such as grapevines, she said.

Geffen received permission from council not only to have the community day event but also to construct the woolly mammoth structure. It will be installed in such a manner it will not be able to easily moved, she said.

She said it is designed to be a temporary structure — unless it is so popular that it might not be removed. The structure will be part of a planned art trail connecting Ice House Park and the central downtown business district to Fireman’s Beach.

A planning session for the construction of the life-size structure will be part of the “Mammals on the Lake” Community Day July 18 starting at noon.

The event is described as a community day of art making and memory sharing.

Local artists will host a series of workshops including free T-shirt decorating and construction of miniature sculptures.

In addition to the workshops, storytelling stations will be located on Fireman’s Beach. Residents and visitors are invited to stop at the stations and share their reflections about living, working and playing in the community as well as visiting in the summer. Stories shared during the event will be integrated into the design and implementation of a public at trail, Geffen said. Students from Allegheny College will be present to record stories and answer questions about the project.

The event also will include music by local bands A Touch of Grey and Emil and the Palooka’s.

All the events are free and open to the public.

“We encourage residents and visitors to attend the event to celebrate the arts, share their memories and participate in the planning for the public art trail,” said Geffen, who is serving as project lead artist for the project. “The sculptures will reflect community members’ engagement and incorporate their stories.”

The project is part of the “Fostering Livability Through the Arts, Nature and Culture” program, a $75,000 grant to Conneaut Lake Borough from the Our Towns program of the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant provides funding for arts-engagement events, a series of public sculptures that will feature opportunities to listen to or view community stories and a fully engineered and comprehensive design plans for completing the public art trail.

Three Allegheny College faculty members will co-lead the events, working in collaboration with Conneaut Lake residents. Geffen is joined by Ceramics and Sculpture Technician Ian Thomas and Assistant Professor of Communication Arts and Theatre Emily Yochim. Support also is provided by an Allegheny College graduate serving as an NEA Art Fellow during summer 2015 and Allegheny College students working at Mellon Research Fellows supported by he Andrew W. Mellon Collaboration Undergraduate Research in the Humanities Grant. Many local artists also will be on hand to help facilitate the arts workshops.

The entire project is a collaboration among the Conneaut Lake Borough, CLCDC and the Arts and Environment Initiative at Allegheny College with funding from the NEA Our Towns Program. The NEA’s Our Towns Program supports creative place making projects that contribute to the livability of communities and help transform them into lively, beautiful and sustainable places with the arts at their core, Geffen said.