Collaborative effort returns 'Shad Run' sculpture to public display

Published 05.17.2021

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Restored by Pennsylvania College of Technology faculty and students in a cocurricular alliance, then relocated and rededicated Thursday evening, a piece of public art that enshrines a significant West Branch Susquehanna River phenomenon now graces Pine Square Alley.

The stainless steel "Shad Run" sculpture was created by Seattle artist Joseph McDonnell and unveiled by Public ARTWORKS in 2005, intended as a welcoming landmark at Third and Market streets. When the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau and Little League International decided in 2014 to commission "Bases Loaded," a baseball diamond in Market Square, complete with bronze "players" frozen in midgame – including a stray fielder along the Penn College entranceway – the artwork was put into storage at the River Valley Transit bus garage.

Welders who converted the once-freestanding artwork into a wall hanging are (from left) instructor Michael R. Allen and students Jeremy D. Carlson, Karl W. Machamer and Matthew G. Johnson."Shad Run," mothballed for years after its removal from Market Square, has gloriously reemerged in a new location.Public ARTWORKS (a committee of Lycoming Arts) took ownership of it last year, realizing immediately that the sculpture would need some cleaning and restorative work ... as well as a new home. Charles Imbro and Tony Ecker, owners of The Brickyard Restaurant & Ale House and Stonehouse Wood Fired Pizza & Pasteria, graciously agreed to host the sculpture, and the quest for renovation was under way.

Faculty member Nicholas L. Stephenson and graphic design majors Alexa C. Henry (center) and Kaylee A. Smith stunningly updated the sign installed alongside the sculpture."Because of my long employment history with Penn College, and knowing the expertise of the faculty and students, I contacted President Davie Jane Gilmour with an idea to enlist these experts in the restoration and installation of the sculpture as a community service project, and she willingly agreed," Lenore G. Penfield, special events assistant to the president, told those assembled for the rededication.

The names of Penn College instructors and students who participated in the "Shad Run" restoration are displayed on a commemorative plaque, which also explains and illustrates the titular event: "Every spring in late April or early May word traveled rapidly upriver that the shad were on their way, part of a massive migration of billions of fish returning from the Atlantic Ocean to spawn in the rivers where they were born. The Susquehanna River Basin was the largest fishery for American Shad and there were several shad fisheries in the Williamsport area. With industrialization, Williamsport and the other river towns prospered but polluted the river and lessened the shad run. When industry left, the river towns declined. Today's environmental protection of the river has brought back the bounty of the shad and new life to river towns."Lenore G. Penfield explains the history of "Shad Run" and the college's role in its restoration.After moving the stainless steel sculpture to campus, she explained, collision repair instructor Roy H. Klinger cleaned and returned it to mint condition. From there, Michael R. Allen, the co-department head of welding and metal fabrication technologies, enlisted the help of three welding and fabrication engineering technology students to adapt the original standing piece so it could be installed as a wall sculpture: Jeremy D. Carlson, of Russell; Matthew G. Johnson, of Newburgh, New York; and Karl W. Machamer, of Lebanon.

It was concurrently determined that the text on the old kiosk sign originally accompanying the piece was outdated, so Penfield contacted graphic design instructor Nicholas L. Stephenson to enlist students in creating a new plaque. Two graphic design majors spearheaded that project: Alexa C. Henry, of Conshohocken, and Kaylee A. Smith, of East Stroudsburg.

The Penn College contingent joins the local arts community for Thursday's rededication in Pine Square. "Their attractive sign, appropriately adorned with a running shad, now informs visitors about the sculpture and how its subject relates to the Susquehanna Valley," Penfield said. "What began as a collaborative community project in 2004, ended with a similar collaborative effort between college and community members to restore this beautiful piece and place it on display for all to enjoy once again."