Artists aim to inspire positive dialogue via yearlong art installation

by Judy Stringer

Adriana Caso has been thinking a lot about birds.

The day I joined her and Michael Seng at Door2 Art Studio on the south edge of Hudson, Caso – with colorful birds dangling from her ears – explained that one of the things she likes best about our feathered friends is the way you hear them before you see them.

“You intuitively think ‘Where is that awesome sound coming from?’ and then you start looking for it,” she said.

That “delightful experience,” Caso noted, runs counter to how many of us communicate with one another, especially over social media and other digital platforms. Too often, she contended, we react quickly without “looking for” or “seeing” the source, which emboldens us “to say things that maybe we wouldn’t have said otherwise.”

“My artist’s brain started to compare the two concepts,” said the Door2 executive director, “and Birdsong was born.”

Birdsong is an ambitious art installation that will descend upon Hudson later this month. With the help of the city arborist and city service workers, Caso and Seng – who is assistant director at Door2 and Caso’s right-hand Birdsong architect – will suspend 150 brightly painted birds from tree branches along the Main Street greens with the goal of inspiring civility.

“I feel like we, as a community, as a nation, as a world, need to manage dissonance better,” Caso said. “If we’re talking to each other in an honest and straightforward way that is drenched with compassion and empathy, then we can disagree, and it’s okay.”

“It’s a commentary on what we all should be working on,” Seng added. Each bird we encounter has a distinct melody, he explained, but is also a part of a beautiful, winged chorus.

Door2 Art Studio leaders (l-r) Michael Seng, Adriana Caso and Sara Hughes will adorn “the big bird” – soon to nest on the Park Lane Green – with mirror tiles and mosaics painted by community members. Photo by J. Stringer.

“Trying to live in unity better doesn’t mean we all have to say the same thing,” Seng said.

Fledging connections

While the Birdsong concept was conceived within Door2 studio, Caso and Seng stressed that it has been intentionally nurtured as a “collaborative community art project.” Early on, the duo recruited a team of local stakeholders – including city, business and professional art representatives – to guide and advise the vision. Many of these connections beget other helpful contributors.

The birds themselves, for example, were produced at a fraction of the price originally projected with expertise and help from Step2, Western Reserve Academy and Stow resident Jon Fawcett. Step2 drafted a CAD design of the plastic bird and created a mold that was used to die cast dozens of them at WRA’s Wang Innovation Center. Fawcett, who owns a medical device startup, pitched in to 3D print 80 more “just because he believed the project was cool,” according to Caso.   

Each bird was then painted by area artists and creatives or those with connections to the region. And community members pitched in by decorating hundreds of small mosaic squares during HUDSONmART last summer. Those mosaics will adorn a giant 6-foot foam bird to be placed on the Park Lane Green along with thousands of mini mirror tiles, included, the organizers said, so that visitors can see themselves in the work.

“This is a community project, so we don’t want anyone in the community to feel like they have been cutoff by not being directly involved,” Seng said.  

In addition to these connections, Seng said he’s been excited to see how the project has fostered “community and communication” beyond Birdsong, particularly among collaborating artists. Artists in a Facebook group, which was created to talk about their bird designs and inspiration, now chat there about their other projects and showings.

“People who didn’t know each other before Birdsong are hanging out,” he said. “That’s the point.”

Taking flight

Caso expects to begin hanging the vibrant birds downtown mid-April. Posts will be installed along the paths on the Clock Tower and Gazebo greens with QR codes that can be used to match a particular bird with its artist, and vice versa. They also plan to hang wind chimes at various points among the installation to mimic the bird’s harmonic role in nature.  

Guided tours of the installation will take place on Saturday, April 29, from 12-3 p.m. In addition, The Moos Gallery at WRA will host a compilation of the birdsong process from concept to installation beginning Tuesday, April 25. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon.  

In addition, many Main Street storefronts will participate with bird-themed window decorations or specials. Caso envisions family-friendly scavenger hunts and other activities during the yearlong installation.

Mostly, however, she and Seng can’t wait to see individuals and groups of people strolling the paths, reflecting and interacting with one another as they observe and enjoy the flock.

“As the seasons change, different birds will pop at different times in the year,” Caso said. “It’s the surprise of beauty, right? I love that, but it does require us to take a moment and focus.”

That’s the lesson she hopes stays with visitors. ∞

Featured Photo: Plastic birds painted by area artists and creatives will be hung from trees along Main Street later this month as part of the yearlong Birdsong installation.