Stephen Miotto, owner of Miotto Mosaic Art Studios, works Wednesday on installing the border to the “Wheel of Life” mosaic on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge. The piece was completed Thursday. John Purcell/Recorder staff.

By JOHN PURCELL

Recorder News Staff

A new piece of artistic flare was completed Thursday on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge, marking the final addition before planned sculptures are installed.

A replica of the “Wheel of Life” mosaic located at Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan is the latest artistic feature to be installed on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook. The mosaic pays homage to the most notorious carpet produced in Amsterdam, once known as Carpet City. The Waldorf Astoria Hotel commissioned Mohawk Carpet Mills around 1940 to create a carpet replicating the Wheel of Life mosaic in it’s lobby.

Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa said the completed mosaic looks great and the city worked hard to have the piece included on the pedestrian bridge.

“It looks fantastic, it really does,” Villa said. “It really represents Amsterdam as far as where we came from with the carpet mills, and I think it speaks to what the bridge is about.”

Patrick Morelli, the sculptor who designed the replica and oversaw its installation, said about four years Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, had invited him to visit where the pedestrian bridge was proposed to be installed.

“Tonko and I came out here whenever it was, and there was two feet of snow,” Morelli said. “We’re standing there and Tonko says, ‘There’s going to be a pedestrian bridge there.’”

Morelli, of Loudonville, said he has a photograph of him standing with Tonko that day, which he called “Two Dreamers.” This time, he said, the dream actually came true.

The artistic aspect of the dream had appeared out of reach at one point, because the lowest construction bid came in over the roughly $12.5 million targeted for the project. This led to the three artistic elements Morelli had designed for the bridge being scrapped to remain within budget.

Then Mayor Ann Thane and other city officials continued pursuing funding opportunities for artistic elements and eventually it paid off. Morelli was contacted after additional funding had been secured and one of his artistic elements, the “Wheel of Life” mosaic, was set to be included.

Funding for the “Wheel of Life,” totaling around $255,000, was drawn from the $1 million Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, helped the city secure from the state Assembly to fully fund decorative elements on the bridge.

The $1 million was also used for the Story Mark, a 12-foot wide compass pulling together the themes of the bridge and guiding visitors through the city’s past, present and future; interpretive decking; and the lettering reading “Amsterdam” installed on the side of the bridge so boaters know their location.

Morelli contracted with Miotto Mosaic Art Studios, based in Carmel, to install the mosaic on the bridge, which was completed over three days. Mosaic artist Stephen Miotto, owner of Miotto Mosaic Art Studios, installed the piece with Vincent Mazzacone.

The mosaic was created in Italy and shipped as nine separate pieces to Miotto’s Carmel studio, according to Morelli.

Morelli said the experience from conception to completion has seemed like a “long journey,” which required the faith and teamwork to bring the piece to realization.

“Thank goodness that it’s come to fruition and there’s something people will enjoy forever,” Morelli said. “This bridge is just a work of art.”

Villa said there are still three more artistic elements until the entire MVGO project is completed.

The MVGO Art Committee had requested proposals from artists specializing in sculpture or metal work, or both, to create a sculpture on the north bank and another on the south bank, along with a decorative metal gate at the South Side entrance to the bridge. The decorative gate would also be functional, closing the bridge during the off season.

The city allocated $400,000 for the creation and installation of the three pieces. Villa said proposals to date would fall within the amount budgeted.

Villa declined to elaborate on artistic proposals, because discussions are ongoing and the artist or artists have not been selected. He said one artist has the potential to create all three pieces, but the committee is determining whether selecting the artist for all pieces is the best option.

“There are some great ideas and great pieces out there,” Villa said. “We’re hopeful by November that we should have at least one or two of those pieces in, but we’ll see.”

Funds for the artistic elements will be drawn from the remaining $650,000 the city received through state grants. The grants require the money must be used within a limited geographical area and benefit the pedestrian bridge.

City officials had opted against allocating all of the remaining grant funds toward the artwork to allow for $250,000 toward installing public restrooms near the pedestrian bridge.

Villa said discussions are still ongoing about the best option to create public restrooms near the bridge. He said in order to use grant funding for the restrooms, the property must be city-owned.

“We’ll do something, whether it’s temporary right now to service visitors then so be it, but eventually there will be a permanent structure that we’ll be able to service everyone,” Villa said.

There are several events planned this year center around or along the pedestrian bridge.

A new event is Sunset Celebrations being held every other Friday during July and August, with the first event to be held July 14. The bi-weekly event is planned to feature entertainment, music and art.

There are also returning events, such as Riverfest on Aug. 5, Trick-or-Treat on the MVGO on Oct. 31, and a Tree Lighting Ceremony held on Nov. 24. A complete listing of city events can be found on the Amsterdam Department of Recreation’s website, www.AmsterdamRecreation.com.